I indicated in my last post that our Fasching exploits was the beginning of the end of the Captains’ Club. That it probably a good thing since, as every Catholic knows, Fasching (or Fat Tuesday) reflects the last opportunity for fun before the 40-day fast of Lent. For me, Lent was a reminder to try to keep my mouth shut. This is a lesson that I’ve fought with my entire life, especially when I want to think I am helping someone else.
Things really started to get ugly related to the many unit members who believed they were improperly mobilized. As I mentioned in a previous post, I had people lined up at my door to complain. Doing what I thought was the right thing, I passed these complaints off to the unit Commander. Though I did not have “client confidentiality” related to these individuals, I always tried to be discreet about who was doing the complaining. As a result, unless those individuals made a direct complaint through their chain of command, the unit leadership had no idea who was doing the complaining.
It came to a head when the unit started getting IG (Inspector General) complaints and Congressional Inquires about the mobilizations. I had referred all to the installation Judge Advocate General’s office (JAG), but also suggested IG complaints in addition to seeing JAG. I don’t know exactly how I got put onto the hot seat (except from telling them about the unrest), but pretty soon I started receiving almost daily “warnings” from the unit Executive Officer (XO) to stay out of the issue. He communicated this both directly to me and through the Major that I worked for. By this time, though, I was no longer seeing anyone about this matter since they had rightly taken their complaints elsewhere. Frankly, I was happy to be out of the middle of it all.
Our Lieutenant Colonel XO somehow got it in his mind that I was the ringleader of the chorus of complaints raining down on the unit. If anyone has been involved in responding to IG and Congressional complaints, it is a bear and can quickly bog down the leadership of the unit. I don’t blame them for being mad, but they should have looked in the mirror at their lack of transparency and outright lies rather than directing their anger at me. It became obvious that I was “persona non grata” in the unit, as senior leaders started to overtly avoid me. After a couple of weeks of this – and the continual warnings from the XO, I made an appointment to talk to the XO and Commander.
This meeting was not pretty. I told them that I felt like I was being targeted. They refused to believe that I was not whipping up insurrection within the command. I suggested that they sit down with the unit officers and ask directly who had complaints. Instead, they accused me of writing all the Congressional letters and IG Complaints. Apparently, in their view, only a lawyer could write well enough to get so much attention. The truth is that I was not involved in any of that, at least not until what happened next.
Surprisingly, the Commander agreed to gather the officer corps to explain the mobilization and auto allow anyone to air any grievances. This occurred after work in a ballroom at the community club. Almost everyone was encouraged and eager to hear details from the horse’s mouth. Several officers told me that they had prepared statements to outline their grievances. We all hoped that this would end the dark cloud hanging over the unit. Boy, were we disappointed.
The Commander started by stating his case about the mobilization. He actually blamed things on his boss, a Brigadier General, saying that he was told that there were NO exceptions to the mobilization, even if the Army had stated otherwise. After some other obfuscations and dodging a few softball questions, we waited for others to lay out their complaints. Crickets. None of the most ardent of the aggrieved raised their hand – and here is where I failed to keep my mouth shut. Yes, I was still peeved about being blamed for the whole mess, but THIS was not my battle to fight. Still, I plunged forward.
I laid out the case that had been presented to me many times. People consistently used the word, “stop-loss” as the reason they were given by the Commander for their resignation, retirement, or other reason to not deploy. I asked if he had said that to anyone. He denied saying so. Then I asked if there was a stop-loss. He claimed that he was not aware at the time, but later realized that there was not. I then asked a couple of other pointed questions before the meeting abruptly came to an end. Following the meeting I got the worst chewing out I’ve ever received. Furthermore, the XO directed me to pack my bags, as I was on the next bus to Bosnia. He finished by telling me that Colonel Hubbard had more friends in the Army Reserve than I could ever hope to have, so I could consider my career over.
This was the lowest point of my on again/off again Army career. Here I was being punished for fighting a battle that wasn’t even mine. I wasn’t eager to be mobilized, but I clearly understood my duty and obligation. I never asked, nor would I have asked, to be removed from the mobilization. In fact, there was a part of me that missed the Army. Now that I was a senior Captain, the Army was looking better to me than it ever had before. Not anymore. It now looked that my career was over. Not only that, but I was headed to the war zone.
I was vaguely aware that there was a regular bus to Hungary – the transfer point for follow-on travel to Bosnia every couple of days. I did NOT realize that the “next” bus out was the very next morning at 6AM. Even though I was pretty overwhelmed at the chewing out session, I was pretty clear that I received no specific instruction to be on a bus at 6AM the following morning. Oh, was I wrong. The Commander and XO were livid that I wasn’t on that bus. They didn’t even give me the opportunity to get on the next bus in a few days. Nope, they were so eager to get me out of town that the XO personally escorted me to Rhein Main Airbase to get me on another bus to Hungary.
I suspect that those who know me can attest that I can be surly, but I don’t think I’m seen by many as a threat or as dangerous. Strange as it may be, COL Hubbard and LTC Harrell seemed to think otherwise. Either that or they had something to hide! None of that mattered since I was now on a +/- 16 hour bus ride from Frankfurt, Germany to Taszar Airbase, just outside of Kaposvar, Hungary. Exiled, but at least I was away from my tormentors and able to focus on a new adventure – and quite the adventure it turned out to be! More on this in the next blog post.