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Plus ça change...

...plus c'est la même chose.

We're an Army at War - with exceptions.

The Admin Army still rules in back here in the 'States.  As Heinlein noted, the system is dominated by the Practical Joker Department, a branch the size of a Cold War Corps, with branch offices at every installation.  The Fairy Godmother Department, on the otter heiny, is staffed by a part-time Grandmotherly type in the basement of the NSA, where she has NIPR access in a SIPR-only environment.  And her rotary phone doesn't work inside the PBX, and the IT goons use her workstation to test all the latest software, so her email inbox is usually corrupt.  She often doesn't come in because she's babysitting for her son, a single father who is a Deputy Associate Assistant Underling in the Practical Joker Department.

The Practical Joker Department (which is, in all honestly, over-run with a certain type of Sergeants Major) are the people who draft all personnel policy.  These are the Masters of Reality who gave us AR 600-9, which provides the regulatory basis for firing people for being fat, regardless of other aspects of performance.  This was so important, that many pencil-necked, sunken-chested, marathon-running sock puppet General officers and their Colonel wannabes would testify to all and sundry who would ask or could be compelled to listen that "AR 600-9 is essential to maintaining a fit Army ready for deployment on an instant's notice and it is essential we have this tool to toss those fatboys out on their ass because they don't look good in the bus-driver suit as they can't hack it in combat and are a threat to their fellow soldiers.

Of course, on September 12, 2001 or thereabouts, the word was put out that no one would be separated for being overweight, because some of you slackers might use that as a way to get out of going to war.  All other provisions would remain intact at the commander's discretion - so go ahead and be a hero, son, but while the pencil-necked sunken-chested marathon-running Captain who commands your unit will get a Bronze Star with V for shooting a sniper, you won't get anything at all for taking down that building full of jihadis, saving your entire platoon, because, well, you're fat and therefore aren't eligible for any awards.

But I digress.  The Practical Joker Department is usually more subtle than that.  As in this actual case, where the names have been changed to protect the innocent from Lieutenant Colonel Korn.

If you recall your Joseph Heller, he wrote a book called Catch-22, about the travails of an Army Air Force bomber unit held in thrall by the Practical Joker Department.  Captain Yossarian spent his time trying to find ways to not get killed, which included finding reasons to not fly.  Anyway, Yossarian survived the war, had a son, and that son had a son, and that son is in the Army.  Captain Yossarian the Youngest does not fly for a living, but does try to avoid getting killed. 

Despite his best efforts, whiile he was successful at not getting killed, he was not quite so successful at not getting fired up when he neglected to notice the Great Heaping Pile 'o Explosive that Gerry Jihadi had stashed under the road.

Now back in the land of the America At The Shopping Mall (but less so being unemployed) and All The Alcohol You Can Drink and married, he's been sent to school to reblue his basic branch skillz while he continues his recuperation.

Yesterday, Yossarian had a very painful procedure done. We'll let Yossarian pick up the tale:
"Simply, Doc Daneeka stuck eight needles in my lower back, four on each side of the spine, starting at L2 and going to L5. A microelectrode was then inserted through the needle, and electrical current is applied to the nerve, which heats it up and eventually decreases the ability of that nerve to transmit pain signals. It has a lasting effect in the 6-9 month range.

Here's where it gets fun. Ever been hit in the lower back by a sledge hammer, bowling ball, crow bar, or baseball bat? That is the feeling I have, which should dissipate over the next few days. In the mean time, Doc Daneeka gave me a bottle full of my old friend Vicodin, which dulls the pain (and everything else) and lets me prettymuch sleep the day away.

Now, the doc who performed the procedure was assigned to me by TriCare, on a consult from Doctor Stubbs who works for the Army at the post clinic. Doctor Daneeka wrote me a note telling me not to return to work until Friday. I sent that note in to my boss, Lieutenant Colonel Korn, with a classmate. Should be good, right? Notsomuch. My boss called me today, and told me that I need to go see Doctor Stubbs with my note from Doctor Daneeka, so Doctor Stubbs can put it on the right form, so I can then be placed on convalescent leave.

So basically, one civilian doctor's note isn't what I need; two civilian doctor's notes are what I need. Since I am taking happy pills, driving is right out. The note that I need from Dr. Daneeka to give to Dr. Stubbs is at work, and my wife is fetching it now. I made an appointment to see Dr. Stubbs tomorrow, (as they had none left for today) so I can get the right form signed to turn in. So instead of resting (which is the whole point) I now have to run around and explain what happened to a second doctor, have him give me two copies of the right form, take one of those copies to work, make sure they agree, and then I will have the time off. By the time I get all of this done tomorrow, I will have one day left of recovery before I get back to work. And of course, all of my transportation needs will be met by my wife, because I would be committing a crime (Driving under the influence of narcotics) if I did it myself. She Of Infinite Patience will of course drive the paperwork around, and me as needed, but the simple fact is that it isn't her goddamn job; and the Army is making her do it so that I don't get in trouble.

The whole point is that I should be near horizontal for the next few days, but in order for the Army to let me be horizontal, I have to be vertical.

Catch 22 is alive and well in this Army.

I can't sit in a chair for eight hours at work. I can barely sit in my big overstuffed easy chair, because the weight pushing down on my back is too much for longer than about 15 minutes. Likewise, standing and walking is not preferred, either. I am of a mind right now to put on my uniform, take my meds, and go to work, and just lay on the floor drooling (But present!)"

Joseph Heller would be *so* proud.

4 Comments

"AR 600-9 is essential to maintaining a fit Army ready for deployment on an instant's notice..."

I have always held that an officer more interested in how fast I could run than how well I could shoot was someone I would studiously avoid following in combat, until I realized that type of officer would always do his utmost to avoid being placed in a position where he might actually have to *lead* in combat -- or even appear in an area where there was the chance he might hear a round fired in anger. I know of at least one O-6 who got a DFC for gallantry in aerial combat who spent the entire flight working the C&C console in the rear of the Huey and never got closer than 5,000 feet and three klicks from the action.

I knew a Lootenant in the Guard who couldn't shoot, compose a coherent sentence, or pass an oral evaluation on his knowledge of aviation tactics, but he could run like a friggin' deer.

Twenty years later, he still didn't know which end of the round went into the chamber, wrote in incomplete or run-on sentences, and couldn't tell you where the battery was located in a Huey, but he could still run like a friggin' deer.

He retired as an O-5.
 
One of my few great sources of pleasure was once a week during our battalion run was to chide my Lieutenant and my Captain (who I am convinced chose to run beside me on those days because they enjoyed my rather sick and twisted humor I embarked upon. Hard breathing, I decided causes brain damage.) with such statements as:

"But sir, why are we running? We're supposed to stand and fight the enemy!"
"Shut up, Spite and keep running."
"But sir, in a combat zone we have Humvee's, and if its taken out we can always aquire another mode of transport"
"Shut up Spite, and keep running."
"But sir, don't we have close air support?"
"Shut UP Spite and KEEP running!"

You get the idea :)

 
Hey, some of us scrawny ectomorphs are lazy slackers, too!  Like Mike Collins, I belong to Athletics Anonymous. If we feel the urge to exercise, we call up a buddy and he comes over and drinks with us until the urge passes.
 
P.s. Glory Road _and_ Catch 22 in one post! Yay! Two books having to do with _transdementional_ weirdness, oh yeah.