Back when I was in the North Carolina National Guard, and six weeks after 9/11, we were mobilized. We all had hopes, visions, and wet dreams about going to Afghanistan. We went to Ft. Bragg.
Our unit was the rear command post for the XVIII Airborne Corps, so it was thought that we could augment the actual HQ while they planned on going to Afghanistan. Of course, we were supposed to go with them.
When the time game to go, half of us were left behind as the rear detachment. That sucked in just about every way. They went on Operation Enduring Freedom, and I stayed back on Operation Enduring Boredom.
We had guys in our unit that were infantry. That’s all they had ever done, but it had been in a peace time army, never in war. Most of them were stand up guys, but a couple were douche bags and given to great exaggeration. When an RPG would hit the runway at Baghram, about three miles from where they lived and worked, these guys had their wives believing that they were living in trenches and barely fighting off Taliban wave attacks. They got CIBs and ARCOMS.
I on the other hand got to pull detail after detail back in the states.
Two to three times a week I was on some sort of CQ or staff duty. CQ is the baby sitter for the barracks the privates live in. You are required to stay up all night and get the next day off in compensation. But I was “mission essential.” Right!
I was given a cot and told to take a nap in the middle of the night, then was to report to work at 0900 hrs.
I would lead my people, mostly females, in whatever shit detail needed to be done.
At least every third day I would get to brief the Corps DCG – the Deputy Commanding General – who had also been left behind. When one of my ladies got a compassionate discharge – she was divorced with some kids, and her dad was dying from complications from Agent Orange – I briefed every other day.
I am not a briefer. I don’t like public speaking. I was never trained to brief, it’s not my job, no-how, no-way. Hell, I didn’t even know PowerPoint, the proper tool for military briefings.
Specialist Shortcake got me up to speed. She was the other briefer AND our IMO, the office computer fixer. I was surprised how easy it all was. PowerPoint was easy, assembling the needed info was easy, and when I spoke at the briefing, everyone hung on my every word. Well, they hung on everybody’s every word.
In a very short time I moved to the top of favorite briefers as I took great pains to do the job correctly by having the correct slides, studied the information to brief the general and kept my notes close by.
I used those notes a couple of times to correct a couple of colonels that were trying to shoot me down, putting out the names-dates-places to establish my bona fides.
I also worked on including a one-liner or word pun in the course of the brief, but did it so fast that you had to think about what I said to catch it, and then, it was generally too late as I was already on the next bullet point.
Then a new general came in and had to re-invent the wheel. The best part was that he did it in the middle of that afternoon’s brief. I had my five slides and, just before I got up to brief him, learned that he only wanted me to brief two of the slides.
Those slides were the present situation in Afghanistan and the weather slide. I knew that because he sprung that on me as I approached the lectern.
The Air Force weatherman sat in the brief, but we Intel guys always briefed their slide, and don’t ask me why, I don’t know. I think it’s because he was a captain and we were specialists and sergeants, so he pulled rank.
So I briefed my Afghan slide. The slide clicking guy then stopped on a slide I was not supposed to brief at which time I said, “Next slide please,” like we were supposed to and repeated myself on the next unbriefed slide.
One of the know-it-all colonels took issue with that and told me that I needed to say or do something else.
Slide clicker guy stopped on the next slide, also an unbriefable slide.
What to do? Slide clicker sergeant got his job because he had screwed up everything else, he couldn’t even push a broom, but could push a button. He was way in the back of the space-age, NASA-looking room, with the lights dimmed down. He was looking down, ducking his head down behind his desk and not looking at me like he was supposed to. Probably picking his nose.
So I said, “Yada, yada, yada, next slide…”
There was not as much laughter as, say in a comedy club, but for the Corps Operation Center, it was very loud and lasted about a minute.
The know-it-all colonels’ eyes lit up, like the mechanical monkeys they were, but they remained silent. The new general, when he had finished laughing, said, “That’s not how you’re supposed to brief in the army, sergeant.”
I did the weather reports for Ft. Bragg and Baghram, and said my closing line “pursuant to your questions, sir, I’ll be followed by Operations…”
There were no questions, but immediately after the brief I was popular. I did everything but sign autographs for the lieutenants and sergeants.
And the LTC in charge of my shop told me that I “Can’t say ‘Yada, yada, yada’ while conducting the G-2 portion of the DCG Brief.”