Friday, May 22, 2009

The Army and its Bureaucracies

The government is known for its bureaucracy and the Army is no different. Folks like to feel important and to satisfy that need, they create little fiefdom’s that they can command. They build castles out of policy letters and wield memos like swords.

One of my favorite examples of Army bureaucracy run amok was from my days in Kosovo in late 2000 and early 2001. I still have the email I sent to folks at home describing the events so please don’t think I have an incredible recall.

I served as the battalion civil affairs officer working very closely with the UN and the local governments. Every other Sunday I was to arrange a meeting at Camp Montieth (where we were stationed) with all of the local Serbian mayors. Being the distinct minority (now that Slobodan Milosevic and his band of merry Serbian war criminals had been driven from Kosovo), they had plenty of gripes. Both they, and the Albanians, learned that turnabout is, indeed, fair play.

I digress …

I had a rule during my deployments in the Army. I would sleep in on Sunday. Just a couple of hours; no big deal. The Sunday in question started out like most others. This morning, like others, I went to the Dining Facility to pick up the "lickies and chewies" (cookies, doughnuts, coffee, orange drink, etc) that I had requested on Wednesday. The Wednesday request was well outside the 72 hour request window.

I was greeted by SFC Elecwachi and I told him that I was here to pickup the chow for our meeting. Unfortunately, he said, the rules had changed concerning food requests. Then he produced two very interesting (and educational) documents. First, the Task Force Falcon Chief of Staff's Dining Facility (DFAC) Operations Policy Letter dated 26 Dec 00 and Task Force Falcon Command Policy Letter 17, Dining Facility Operations. These documents spelled out, in painful detail, the procedures required to obtain food, which included snacks for meetings.
First, I was to submit a memorandum requesting the "Class I" (that's army talk for food). This memo must be routed through the battalion S4 (supply officer) to the Task Force Falcon G4 (again, more supply guys). With this memo, I had to include assumption of command orders for my battalion commander.

(Really, I am not making this up)

I was also to have a DA form 1687 "signature card" signed by someone with more authority than me to allow me to pick up food (this specific guidance was found under Paragraph 4.f. entitled 'soda requests'). Also, I must have a DA form 3294-R, which is a "Ration Request/Issue/Turn-In" Slip. Once this paperwork has been approved, I am afforded the luxury of driving to Camp Bondsteel.
Once at Bondsteel, I was to my attention toward the SSA or Supply Support Activity (which, incidentally is a misnomer because all three words in that title would imply that first, it has supplies; second, it supports; and third; there is activity within the confines of the SSA). So, once I return from Camp Bondsteel with my warm soda and my cold coffee, we will be able to have our mayor's meeting. It was interesting to note that meetings that senior level officials go to have a much easier time of receiving food for the function. Hmmmmm…

Regardless, after digesting these rules, I crafted an email to my battalion commander explaining that I needed to form a convoy and leave at 0400 on Sunday morning in order to get coffee from Camp Bondsteel. Apparently, he forwarded it along to the Task Force Falcon Chief of Staff.

Needless to say, I never made the trip. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant for BS policies. And, no longer did they mess with my Sleep In Sunday Policy.

We all have our own bureaucracies.

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