Thursday, 23 April 2009
let me be brief
information in the army is a tricky thing. the world's largest game of telephone happens between people wearing uniforms every day. this double-edged sword is one of the most interesting parts of the army to me. on one hand, it greatly helps with little things. an example:
Matty America: there is a formation at 1630 to discuss new procedures.
Soldier: it was canceled.
Soldier: yeah i heard it's at 1745 and it's an inspection.
MA: who told you that?
Soldier: i... i dont remember.
as you can see, this process is much easier than, say, using carrier pigeons. birds tend to get lost or sidetracked by shiny things whereas soldiers will come straight to you and tell you that another soldier was looking for you. you will, of course, never see this other soldier because they were not aware that you didn't know.
since there is very little rhyme or reason as to who gives you information, it can come from very surprising sources. i have learned more about timelines and events from CNN than from my unit since getting mobilized 10 months ago. finding out about your upcoming from the inside of a bathroom stall is not completely out of the question.
this also segues nicely into another one of the army's favorite pastimes: spreading rumors. if i hear that 10 people are needed to wake up early and perform a Meaningless Army Task (MAT), i am obligated under Army Regulation 450-7 to tell my friends that there is a good chance that we will be having a room inspection in addition to performing the MAT. this will cause them to lose some morale and then concoct an even more skewed version of this tale to pass on to other people. this is the most detrimental to motivation when it involves projected dates for returning home from a deployment.
the army combats rumors through giving a surplus of useless information. this is given out en masse in briefings, which are the mental equivalent of waterboarding (too soon?). the army sits around thinking of ways to put soldiers to sleep and then yell at them for going to sleep. the 21st century has brought about many useful tools in ways to bore it's troops. the number one sleeping aid perscribed by the army is Powerpoint, which, when coupled with dry military information, can cause even the most severe insomniac to be counting sheep within minutes. briefings, as per military law, are not allowed to be informative:
Captain Obvious: today i will be giving blocks of instruction (read: classes) on proper liquid soap to body surface ratios, clipped toenail disposal policy, and the 37-step process to properly identifying types of gravel. we will then break for 10 minutes -
Sergeant First Class Lumpyhead: excuse me sir, i just want to tell everyone that if you feel yourself starting to fall asleep, have some integrity and stand up. go ahead, sir.
CO: These are important classes, and no one here can afford to miss a word of any of this. i will now read verbatim every powerpoint slide that pops up. with any luck, we should be done here by early May.
SFC L: sir, might i also add that when i was a private, we didnt get classes on gravel identification processes, and i dont think i'm half the soldier i could have been because of it.
these classes and briefings are usually a result of higher-ranking people feeling bad about making so much money while doing so little. they want to 'give back' to the troops via briefings, and the longer they talk (obviously) the more effective the briefing was. id love to tell you more, but i need to go find out about our training schedule from a port-o-potty.
recap: birds get sidetracked, powerpoi...zzzz, bathrooms are smart.