Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Thinking

When I was a young sprout in the United States Air Force, when I was in Tech School (right after Basic Training), I had a position called Bay Chief.
This meant that although I didn't have a specific task in cleaning the barracks,
I was responsible to see that it all got done.
I also had the responsibility of marching the troops to and from class.
I took this task so that I wouldn't have to labor under some egotistical narcissist, of which I'd seen a few.
I learned most of what I know about supervising and leading people from that experience.

An example:
One day, while we were in class learning about grid lock bias, or some such, I was told that the C.O. was going to inspect the barracks while we were in class.
I did a bad thing.
I snuck out of class and ran across base to check on the condition of the barracks.

Let me say something about the barracks.
We were stationed in Biloxi Mississppi.
If you ever saw the movie, Biloxi Blues, you saw our barracks.
They were WW2 vintage, yet very well maintained.
They were also divided into two man rooms (where the rows of cots in an open bay barracks would be) with a hallway down the center that led to the latrine (bathroom).

When I had left the barracks in the morning I had been satisfied with the condition, but I wanted to make sure there wasn't a stray item I had missed.
When I got to the barracks, the Colonel and his First Sergeant were at the stairs.
Upon seeing me, the colonel invited me to join him, even though he must have known I was AWOL from class.
We went from room to room, each one squared away perfectly, the floors polished, beds made, surfaces dusted.
He commented positively as we went along.
We got to the bathroom, which looked impressively clean.
Then he looked in the urinal and asked me why that stuff was around the holes in the drain.
I replied that I had seen the airman scrub it as best he could and that I couldn't get it out either.

The Colonel then reached into his pocket, took out his penknife, reached in to the urinal and scraped the crust from around the hole. He turned to the no-stripe airman next to him and told me that that was how it was done.
He then went to the sink and washed his knife and hands, then placed the knife back in his pocket.

Later that day, I showed the guy in charge of urinals what I had been shown, just as I was shown.

I think it's obvious that that lesson has remained with me to this day.

I thought of it today in church, in a context that I had never thought of before.

My Commanding Officer,
the Lord of all the universe,
who sat in majesty amid worshiping creatures and impeccable purity,
when He saw that I didn't know how to deal with the crud in my life,
didn't know how to do the job He expected of me,
He came down to this dirty, corrupt and defiled world to show me how to do it,
knowing we would torture Him to death.
I guess that along with showing us how to live,
He thought He'd take the opportunity to show us how to die.
And rise again.


  1. Good analogy. :-)
    I can see you explaining this during service. :)
    <3 Charity

  2. "I thought of it today in church...." Heh. AWOL from class, er sermon, again. ;) With your history of good consequences, I can't imagine the CO bringing charges against you.

  3. thanks Charity.
    My CO took the punishment for my crimes, Pasc :)

  4. Great analogy is right! Thanks!

  5. When I was a "young sprout" in the US Navy I was also in a supervisory position early on (as I was meritoriously advanced twice) I was called into the office of Commanding Officer (full bird Captain) to discuss my "leadership" skills or more aptly put, my lack thereof. It wasn't that I was inept and couldn't get my assigned tasked completed (I did), it was just the approach to my leadership that he counselled me on. The Captain was one of the most charismatic men I have ever met and to this day the five minute meeting has changed me to this day. Here is what he said to me, and what he showed me by way of analogy:

    He had a length of twine sitting on his desk between he and me. It was all bunched together in a heap. He looked at me and said that anyone can give orders and people will obey them. But a good leader who gives orders get's more out of his men, and women by leading by example instead of just barking orders. He said that leading people was a talent and leading by example is more like "trust earned" instead of rank over another. He then reached down to that pile of string and pushed at it and said that barking an order just confuses and with the repeated pushing on the string pile it jumbled up in a chaotic mess. He then said as he reached and grabbed for one end of the string if you lead them though....He then pulled the string until it uncoiled into a straight line....they will follow.

    1. Thank you Rosey.
      Remember that book "Everything I know I learned in kindergarten"?
      Military, not kindergarten.
      I'm sure others have had similar experiences, but yours is the only other I've heard.