One experience I’ve found to be nearly universal to all military personnel, and also anyone who has ever had a job, is the stupid boss.
There are plenty of people who are not exceptionally bright. In fact by definition, one half of the population is of lower than normal intelligence. Most of the time, this doesn’t make any difference in their everyday life, any more than being able to lift a little less, or running a little bit slower.
But true stupidity goes beyond simply being under average intelligence. To be truly stupid you need to have the magic combination of poor reasoning skills, a deficit of useful information, and an absolutely iron-clad conviction that you are a frigging genius.
We’ve all dealt with it at some point or another. What made this particular case so special is the circumstances.
PSYOP is one of those rare military units that encourages creativity, careful thought, and empathy. Our job was to interact with foreign nationals and try to get them to behave in a way consistent with U.S. policy. Naturally this means we needed to understand the various cultures from around the world that we needed to interact with.
This brings us to SGT Generic. I am calling her that for two reasons. The first is that, as much as I want to tell my funny stories, I don’t see any need to antagonize someone for a mistake they made five or six years ago. The second reason is that I can’t remember what her name was. I worked for SGT Generic for one month, while I was assigned to EOC detail. For anyone familiar with EOC, you know what that particular hell is like. For anyone who never had the pleasure, it’s basically being a combination receptionist, gofer, and lawn care specialist all at the same time and without the prestige.
Me, SGT Generic, and a few other lower enlisted were all tasked to EOC at the same time. Which meant that she was in charge. Which basically meant that she sat on her butt and watched CNN and yelled at us for not doing enough to help her.
Examples of things we did wrong:
“The floor is a mess over here! I shouldn’t have to tell you to vacuum this up! What’s wrong with you?” – Referring to the popcorn she had just spilled.
“If you’re not doing something else, you should be helping me look up the answers to this.” – Referring to the correspondence course she wanted my help cheating on.
“You stink! What the hell is wrong with you?” Talking to a soldier who is drenched in sweat having just mowed the lawn at one in the afternoon, in North Carolina, in the summer.
So basically she’s your typical useless low-level leader.
One of the few perks you get while working on EOC is that you are allowed to watch the news during the day. During a slow period was a story that vaguely touched upon India and some issues involving the Hindu faith. SGT Generic became loudly confused after viewing this.
At first myself, and the other soldiers present just figured that her knowledge of this particular culture was incomplete. No problem, we gave her a brief rundown on the highlights of that particular belief system, purely layman level stuff.
“There’s no way people in India believe that!”
We assure her, that yes, that is what most of the people in India believe.
I just want to take a moment to remind you that the participants in this conversation are part of a military unit specializing in cross-cultural understanding. And that SGT Generic was in charge of several of us.
“Why would they believe in reincarnation? It isn’t in the Bible, anywhere!”
“They don’t follow the Bible. Hindu’s have their own holy books.”
And then she adopted the tone. The one you use when you are trying to explain a very simple concept to a small, and possibly slow child.
“But everyone follows the Bible. Even Jews use the Bible, they just don’t use the whole thing.”
And as one, the various soldiers who worked for this very special lady, allowed our heads to smack onto our desks, and contemplated the fact that she was the one in charge.