To start off, I'm not an NCO so I feel a bit presumptuous posting here. However, I feel pretty cornered considering that there aren't many NCOs I feel I can rely on in my unit; so, here I am. When I started out at my unit just under a year ago, I was fresh from training and I made a few mistakes. I was counseled harshly for these (missed appointment, not properly using chain of command) and I took it as a sign that my SL wanted me to improve and was being hard on me because he thought I had potential. That is, until I overheard him saying how he needed to find a way to knock me down in rank. I was switched SLs, and things began to look up. Until recently. My new SL is, and I'm not saying this to be mean or because this is personal... but he's not very bright. He's all we have at the moment, because my section is extremely short on NCOs. He has too many soldiers and is a pretty unmotivated individual with a bad attitude in general. He's been an E-5 for something like ten years. In the past, I have too often made the mistake of speaking my mind or giving my input on issues. My attempt at tactfully correcting mistakes and misunderstandings (errors in his counselings to me, or lack of communication on his end result in me being at the wrong place/wrong time- which is ultimately always attributed to my mistake; he refuses to claim responsibility for his role in communication problems) has been met with what seems like a vendetta against me. But, let me be clear, this is not a bitching session about my SGT- the issue at hand arose when a week ago I arrived late to formation- the place had changed the night prior, and I had been informed. However, the morning of I went to our usual location, and immediately realized my mistake-- I called my SL, told him, and headed to the new location. I arrived at 0618 (0615 is the time roll is taken). I was marked FTR and counseled (even though I was there for actual formation time of 0630 and the flag). My corrective action was to arrive 30 mins prior to all formations and places of duty. I was doing fine with this, until a few days ago when, for the first time in my Army career, I slept through my alarms and completely missed formation and PT. Today I was given another 4956 and told that because this was my second offense in 30 days, I would be recommended for UCMJ (in my company, that's as good as saying you WILL get an article 15). My squad leader has never verbally counseled me, and wrote that I failed to complete my corrective training because of the missed formation, which, I suppose is technically correct.
I slept through because I've been having trouble sleeping and took an ambien when I woke in the middle of the night. I've been really down and discouraged because no matter what I do I can't seem to get ahead in my unit. I've had money troubles and family troubles and dealt with it all without bringing it to work. My NCO had never sat me down, asked me how I am, asked me what is going on, or tried to find out the root of the problem. I'm not a bad soldier, I have a good APFT (271) and markmanship (32). I volunteer for things, work hard, and (since I learned what is expected in my unit) generally keep my head down and do what I'm told. I have the feeling that this NCO is intimidated by me, dislikes me on a personal level, and is punishing me disproportionately relative to my peers. I have used the 1SGs open door policy before, and he stated that he didn't like what was going on in me section, but since then I have gotten the impression that my SL and PSG have 'gotten to him,' and tainted his opinion of me. Unfortunately, my section SGT has little backbone and my PSG blindly supports the decisions of even his most questionable NCOs. I'm not perfect, and I have made mistakes. I know this sounds a little like a conspiracy theory. But the atmosphere in my unit right now is so ominous, they keep talking about how they'll flag you, bar you, and send you home for any offenses. The Army is my life and I desperately want it to be my future.
I apologize for the length of this...is there anything I can do? Do I have any recourse? Anything is helpful at this point, I'm at the end of my rope. If you made it this far, I sincerely thank you for taking the time to read.
"There are two pains in life, the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. Take your choice."
What I'm going to tell you is something that you may not like.
Your situation is pretty common, and I hear it all the time. The problem, however, isn't necessarily your NCOs. The issue is that you're still not taking responsibility for yourself, and you're not taking your infractions seriously enough. Your missed appointment? That was your place of duty. That's the same as not reporting for guard duty. Not properly using the chain of command? That's showing that you have no respect for basic military courtesy; you might as well tell your supervisor to go f*** himself. You weren't at formation on time? That's great that you called but your previous counselings and your apparent casual attitude toward your deficiencies would indicate that you just don't really care and it's turning in to a pattern of misconduct.
It also sounds like you've developed a pretty negative attitude toward your leadership; and even if you do follow all the proper norms of the Army, your attitude can still bleed through and cause your leadership to develop a negative picture of you.
Bottom line is that you need to accept responsibility for yourself, and do everything possible to ensure that your leadership has absolutely zero reason to have to correct you.
Nothing in your post indicated to me that your leadership has treated you unfairly, or not in accordance with doctrine or regulation.
Thems the breaks kid. Fix yourself.This message has been edited. Last edited by: 35PSGT,
Posts: 257 | Location: Ft Sam Houston | Registered: 27 October 2008
Of course I played a role in this- I admitted that in my original post- I have made mistakes. But the missed appointment- it was made FOR me, not BY me. I was never given an initial counseling informing me of the missed appointment policy. I was fresh out of AIT, where no such policy was enforced. The chain of command skip- of course, if an experienced soldier did what I had done, it would be a sign of disregard and disrespect. But I was a brand new soldier learning how to interact with my first real chain of command- because my prior military experience was in a branch and unit where things were much more casual. Over time I learned not to be quite so nonchalant, though... and what I take issue with here is that most of those around me are permitted this casual attitude, because they are not subject to the same level of enforcement that I am. Mind you, that disparity is not because they have more time in service, or more deployments, or are older or better behaved. All of those would be justifications I might understand. Your gut reaction might be to think that only shitbag soldiers get singled out in the way I'm describing- and a great majority of the time you would be right. The problem I'm trying to impart is that I'm not a shitbag soldier. I've made *fewer* errors than many of my peers- several are habitually late- and I'm still made an example of.
I'm not saying that as a cop out, I'm simply stressing the fact that it's very easy to blame a lower enlisted Soldier for breaking rules and regs, but it's much harder to get acknowledgement of the fact that there was inadequate action on the part of my leadership. No one ever gave me an initial counseling, or barring that, even just a sit down and a 'here's what we expect' conversation/ verbal counseling- for some of the issues, that may have done the trick. Minding all of that, however, one could argue that trial by fire makes for a more rapid learning curve. I would tend to agree with that; I certainly never repeated those minor infractions. BUT when those past errors are brought to bear negatively on a Soldier's relationship with their new PSG, SL or Section SGT, maybe there is something wrong- especially considering that I've been making an honest and serious effort at improving and even excelling.
My issue with your assessment is that I *have* been taking responsibility. I'll admit at first I was focused on the err of my NCOs and their lack of communication, but after a SSG I seriously respect made me take an honest inventory of myself and my role, a lot of that anger left me. The problem is that it doesn't seem to matter whether I own my mistakes or not. As for unfair treatment- I didn't want to make the entry THAT long. My SL has lost my ID card and blamed it on me, and then *lied* through his teeth about ever having had possession of it (he asked me if he could use it for computer access that he did not have yet but was authorized) and he has, more than once, given me the wrong information, then allowed me to take the blame and written me up when I followed it. He's even released me for the day (on a Friday that I was in class), knowing I planned to drive two hours away, and then called me an hour later and told me to turn around. I did- without argument- stifling my frustration as I was taught, and returned to find another 4856 with my name on it for missing a safety brief and just "taking off." On all of the 4856's for events like these, I have written a factual, unemotional rebuttal in an attempt to show both sides of the given event. The first day I was late- THREE people showed up AFTER me. NONE of them were counseled or given corrective training despite the fact that two of them were and remain habitual offenders. And before you ask: yes, we all have the same SL, and no, it was not my second or third offense.
I understand your point regarding comparisons between missing appointments and missing guard duty, and skipping the chain of command and telling your supervisor to go f- themselves... but let me ask you, would you impose the same punishment on a Soldier for the latter offense as you would for the former? The discretionary power that is wielded by NCOs, the ability, and- I dare say- responsibility, to take the whole Soldier and the circumstances into account- is there for a reason. A Soldier with little regard for the Army or for their leadership, who has a habit of disregarding orders and standards and refuses or neglects to act on criticism in order to effect a change in their behavior and attitude- certainly that Soldier should be regarded differently than one who cares, tries, contributes, and wants to meet their leaders' expectations of them? I've been reading the threads in this section, and I see a lot of discussion regarding taking care of Soldiers, understanding their goals and shortcomings, and giving them the tools to recognize where they need growth and where they do well. This important step simply does not happen with my leadership. I don't need coddling and a hug, or to be told I'm just the best thing since sliced bread- I don't cry or complain vocally at work and I'm not particularly sensitive. So please don't misconstrue my appreciation for the steps of professional development and my expectation that an NCO might help guide me through them as representative of a high-maintenance, "new-Army" kind of mentality.
I can't fully explain all of the events which have led to this point and developed the dynamic that currently exists- and I understand and even sympathize with the knee-jerk reaction of one NCO to come to the defense of another. But in this case, I'm afraid the NCO in question *does* play a role in how badly I'm currently perceived. Please don't think I'm just whining about how unfair this is. Life isn't always fair- I know that better than most. I don't want to give up, or get out of the Army, even though things look kind of bleak at the moment due to the growing compilation of seemingly small yet unfortunate events. I'm simply asking for some help, advice, or insight on what I can do, should do, or might need to try or look in to.
Don't misunderstand, 35PSGT, I do appreciate your input. I am not brushing it aside, because just ignoring your ideas would be ignorant and counterproductive. How do you think that I can more overtly show that I'm taking ownership? I no longer argue or ask provocative questions if I'm being reprimanded- but neither do I give robotic or sarcastic "roger"s or "hooah"s. And let's say for argument's sake that my NCO does have it out for me- how can I even begin to go about changing that, or (if that is not a realistic endgame-), how would you recommend I deal with it on the day-to-day? You're completely right in suggesting that I take care not to do anything that might give my leaders the lease to single me out or punish me. But beyond preventative measures, is there any way to "fix" a broken reputation once it has gotten to the point that it is at now for me? I only wrote so much in response because I felt as though you had an incomplete understanding of the situation. If the solitary issue here were me taking ownership for my actions, I would likely be getting ready to go to WLC and a promotion board in the not-so-distant future rather than posting a humbling plea for help or preparing myself to possibly stand on the carpet and get read. :/
Sincerest Thanks, and I hope you find the time to answer my lengthy prompt.
"There are two pains in life, the pain of discipline, and the pain of regret. Take your choice."
I'll be brief. You're in a tricky spot. You seem to be pretty straight forward in your assessment so I will go ahead and assume you are being truthful. You said you have written rebuttals on your counseling statements. That's a start. If you truly are being thrown under the bus bring it up.
Talk to your SL first. Ask him if you can talk to him and explain to him how you are perceiving his corrective training. Ask your buddies and see if they have concurring opinions. Bring that to him. If it doesn't start to change, take your counseling packet and use the 1SG's open door policy again. If you are truly getting screwed you need to take it up the chain higher and higher until it gets fixed.
But yes, I also agree with 35P, make sure you fix yourself first. You need to be on your A game before you start bringing up deficiencies on part of your NCOs.
Keep your head up and you will get through this. You seem like a good troop I hope this doesn't discourage you. One of these days, if you continue to serve, and become an NCO you will remember these days and know how not to treat your soldiers.
Starbuck86, sounds like you have a good perspective and have taken personal accountability for your actions and shortcomings. It was refreshing to read that this was not a bitch session. One thing to remember as you continue to grow throughout your military career, is that you cannot change other's shortcomings. You will find that you have to adapt to them, and hopefully become a better leader from them.
I would recommend that you consider the following: 1) obtain a copy of the company training calendar for the week 2) check in with your SL every evening (call, text, email, etc.) to verify any changes from the training calendar, for the following day 3) if you have yet to receive any monthly performance counselings (not just verbal), you need to start requesting them. This is perfect time to discuss expectations, areas of strength, areas that you need to improve, goals, etc. 4) inform you SL of any open door policies that you intend to use/exhaust prior to using them (this will alleviate the perceived chain jumping). As long as your immediate leader is the first to be informed, the chain is not being jumped. 5) provide your SL a copy of your appointment calendar; if you don't have one, make one. Everywhere you go, your calendar should be on your person, just in case last minute changes occur, or you quickly need to pencil in a new item.
All Soldiers are bound to make mistakes, just make sure you are learning from them and do not make a habit of repeating them. I hope some of these tidbits are helpful for you.