Saturday, January 12, 2008

In Army Limbo

It's a terrible reality of life in the Army that the units that govern transitions from one station to another (and as such present the first impressions of any new unit or duty station) are invariably dreadful, mind-numbing places staffed by the dregs of the Army, the proverbial "cream of the crap". From the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) where initial enlistment processing is completed, to Reception battalion where soldiers are in-processed to Basic Training, to the Replacement Detachment where I'm currently awaiting my in-processing into the 82nd Airborne, this limbo status presents one of the least attractive faces of the Army. In conversations on what I love about the Army, I've often mentioned the fact that the Army is far better than civilian society at pigeonholing incompetent people into dead-end positions where they can do little damage. Unfortunately, one of those pigeonholes seems to be the cadre positions in these sorts of processing units. And there is certainly damage to be done, not least to the careers of far too many young soldiers who, knowing nothing of the Army and unaccustomed to looking beyond the next day or three, end up going AWOL because they can't see what Army life is beyond Limbo. Now, if it sounds like all the cadre in Repo are total dirtbags, let me assure you, this isn't the case; several of our platoon sergeants seem like excellent NCOs. Good soldiers can certainly end up as cadre in Limbo as well, apparently just through terrible luck. The problem is that good leadership works more slowly than bad; a good NCO simply cannot make the sort of impression in a week that a bad one can. The reverse is true as well: since hundreds of soldiers process through every week, the only soldiers who will ever become personally known to the cadre are the trouble-makers and dirtbags, leading them to treat all in-processing soldiers as trouble-makers and dirtbags.

All in all, this seems to be really sticky systemic problem. Fellow soldiers have had similar experiences at MEPSs, reception battalions, and replacement detachments all across the Army, which leads me to think it's a fairly intractable problem as well; if there were an easy solution, the Army would have implemented it by now. The one upshot is that life in regular units always seems brighter after going through Limbo. That's a pretty crappy upshot.


Cheryl said...

Wish I could have met you while you were stateside--seeing as how your sister is one of my favorite people in the world, and you have the same name as my son, I think you are probably just as cool in person as you are in the blogosphere.

Maybe next time! The Lord be with you!

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Well, I'm still stateside, in NC for around another month or so. Probably won't be getting back to the Midwest before I ship out, though. I'd love to meet you and littler Evan someday when I get back!

Cheryl said...

Duh . . . I knew that. Sorry to ship you out prematurely!