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The "WHY" of work
Old 11-30-2005, 06:08 PM   #1
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The "WHY" of work

* * *Well, it's that time of year again.* Happy holidays.

* * *Spouse is doing her two weeks' Reserve duty at the local HQ.* She'll spend six days working "normal" hours (7 AM to 6 PM plus a bonus commuting hour) and then she'll do eight straight "days" of 12-hour midwatches (add two hours/day for turnover & commuting).* 14 consecutive days of this pays her ~$4200 before taxes, or around $25/hour including the commute.* And she's worth every penny!

* * *She came home from the first day saying "Everyone seems tired."* Let me explain what it means when a naval officer (including a Marine) actually notices that someone is tired.* If nuclear submariners were firefighters then they'd wear a belt & suspenders, but they'd also loop a rope through the beltholes and tie it tightly around their neck, and they'd have someone follow them around 24/7 to make sure their pants weren't falling down.* When my spouse rode the USS CHICAGO for a few days she observed this mentality at work in the control room.* (I was part of the problem so I never noticed it.)* Every piece of equipment was backed up with two other systems and a human watchstander.* The guy controlling the rudder has a partner and two supervisors just in case the electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics, and mechanical linkages don't do the job.* As the whole watchsection was stumbling around & dozing off despite intravenous caffeine, she observed "Boy, you guys sure do make yourselves tired."* So for her to say the same thing about the HQ shore-duty staff means that it's a miracle they don't fall asleep at the wheel driving home.* They have black belts in chronic sleep deprivation.* Of course I'm not sure that all of them go home at night, but that's a different problem.

* * *She's at HQ to support a logistics/warfare planning exercise.* The Army colonel in charge of her part of the Ops/Plans department has no experience in that field, which didn't inhibit him from firing his only experienced subordinate who lacked the tact to patiently & inoffensively explain the subject to his boss.* The remaining sycophants don't know what they're doing, but the boss can't tell either so everything looks OK.* The flag officer of the directorate is a Navy admiral who just returned from sea duty and has similar joint planning experience-- zero.* With only 48 working hours left before COMEX and no real corporate memory, you can imagine the environmental crisis level.* Let's just say that if PowerPoint slides were oil, this week's overproduction would implode their price to $1 a barrel.* OTOH paper consumption is being measured in reams, not pages.* I don't think PowerPoint slides count as Operations and there sure isn't any Planning happening.* But somehow this exercise will muddle through its operations and the war planning will improve from the lessons learned.

* * *One of the officers is a "geographic bachelor".* That's a military euphemism for "Hell no I won't move to Hawaii with him, and I'm divorcing him as soon as his housing allowance stops" "Spouse has a great career back home & the kids are in good Mainland schools".* He claims he has four kids (which he confuses with the avocation of actually RAISING four kids) and he's proud of the sacrifices that he's making for his family (just don't follow him down to Ke'eamoku Street this weekend).

* * *Why the @#$* do these people put up with this?* An unfortunately small minority are patriots who enjoy the heck out of the challenge.* I salute them because they don't walk around telling everyone what they are-- they live their ethics and they don't brag about it.* Jarhead is nodding his head because he knows that most of them are Marines.* They just do it.* I don't think they could even contemplate retirement, let alone ER.

* * *Another fortunately small minority endures the HQ because they're not in combat and they don't want their performance to volunteer them for that duty.* They can hang out with their shipmates, drink unlimited Kona coffee, and tell sea stories 24/7.* They might even do a little work if you're watching them, but they won't be the first to go home at night.* No fool would mess up this good deal.* Besides they're usually extroverts who need the stimulation & camaraderie more than they need the paycheck or the responsibility.* If they weren't swilling coffee at HQ in uniform, they'd be bringing doughnuts as civilian contractors.* They'll have a heart attack from one or the other before they'd retire.

* * *For some of the staff, at this stage in their career they're grasping for flag rank more responsibility.* Everyone tries to do more more more to be "outstanding" or even (*gasp*) SUPERIOR while the military is diverting all their replacements & funding to Iraq.* If they're not beating themselves-- or a competitive coworker-- to a bloody pulp then they don't have a dog in the fight and they're irrelevant.* Some of them have already survived one heart attack.* They'll retire only if they're forced to, and they'll die shortly thereafter feeling like abject failures.

* * *Another issue is money security.* About half of the HQ staff are at the 15-18 year point, with only a few thousand working hours short years to vesting for that 50% retirement pay.* When their assignment officers said "I can't fill this job" "This Hawaii duty will be good for your career", they saluted & started packing.* When the assignment officer calls, they know it's his way or the highway.* They don't believe that they could survive (or join the Reserves!) without that pension.

* * *But that doesn't explain the behavior of the people who are already eligible to retire-- and that's about a third of the staff.* For them it could still be about the alimony money, but it's probably about the power and the ego boost of having hundreds of junior personnel trying their hardest to make their bosses happy.* When you're wearing stars on your shoulders, have your own executive bathroom, can phone anyone in the world for free or drop bombs on them, and can have your food delivered to your office anytime of the day or night-- why in the world would you even go home, let alone retire?

* * *Spouse has identified why she doesn't miss going to work:
- she's tired of being tired,
- she's tired of crisis managment, especially by pointy-haired idiots,
- she doesn't want the family separation anymore,
- it's someone else's turn to be the patriot,
- she's literally a left-handed INTJ introvert,
- she can live without the money, and
- she can live without the ego trip.

* * *I don't think she'll have any trouble retiring when she's eligible.* The Reserves have made her far happier than active duty ever did.* When she tells me her stories about my fellow submariners on that HQ staff I think "There but for the grace of God go I..."

* * *Thanks for listening.* This HQ's microcosm is probably not indicative of the rest of the military, and I really want to believe that.

* * *If this post reminds me of your office, you have my condolences.*
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 11-30-2005, 06:57 PM   #2
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Nords: Guess there's no way that you or your DW are going to be on "recruiting duty" in the future, huh?

You've put in your time, and get to live it again through your wife's eyes. (Somewhat comparable to raising kids, and knowing what
they are faced with from time to time, but can't do much about it.)

A few years from now, I'm sure you will both be glad that the two of you stuck it out.

Nothings easy, (at least that's been my experience).

Hang in there.

Semper Fi, Jarhead






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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 11-30-2005, 07:02 PM   #3
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Nords,
I had a similar observation while deciding to stay nine more years and retire or call it quits and walk away. As I looked at what my bosses were doing workwise I decided to say no thanks. I saw no assignement out there that made me say "Man I can't wait to pin on 04 and get THAT job." The Army has changed too much for me in the last eleven years. I have experienced most of what you just described and talking candidly with fellow 03s they feel the same way. I know a college mate of mine that got out with about 13 years and decided to go to dental school. He was Special Forces while enlisted and I just knew he was going to retire.

BTW- I guarantee that those lessons learned won't be captured or used on the next Ops EVAL. Some of those HQs always seem to be starting from scratch.
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 04:10 AM   #4
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Thanks Nords for reminding me that we have it good right now.* Husband checked into his new command this summer after returning from Iraq in the spring.* It's been fantastic - he's home by 5 pm unless he decides to bike home, plenty of time for him to train for triathlons PT during the day, the workload is reasonable despite preparing for a deployment, and he has a lot of latitude in training his Marines.*

DH was furious this week after being scheduled for 15 hours of parade practice, but yesterday the XO told him to ditch it and then took him and another officer on a 3 hour bike ride instead.* Sgt Major was upset, but since it was the XOs idea...

I know things will get busier once they get all of their Marines back after Christmas, but damn! A little sense when things are slow makes a big difference in improving families attitudes during those long workups, weeks in the field, and 6 month deployments.* Too bad his last boss didn't get it...
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 08:46 AM   #5
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Re: The "WHY" of work

NORDS, great post; deja vu all over again.

I believe it was in the Caine Mutiny the poignant line: "The military is a system designed by geniuses to be run by idiots."

Pity the poor people who just "cannot let go." One day the system will wrench that insignificant job from their cold hands and give it to another careerist. Then what?
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 02:48 PM   #6
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Quote:
Originally Posted by ex-Jarhead
Nords: Guess there's no way that you or your DW are going to be on "recruiting duty" in the future, huh?
A few years from now, I'm sure you will both be glad that the two of you stuck it out.
Nothings easy, (at least that's been my experience).
I lost a lot of my best instructors to recruiting duty. I wasn't a fan of underpaying your employees, cutting their budgets, and giving the money to Spike Lee for cool slacker commercials to attract inexperienced new employees. But it's getting better now.

I can't complain about the choice we made-- what bugs me is the choices that we were too ignorant to learn more about. If I could go back in time then I'd smack the 1993 Nords upside the head and join the Reserves. Are all you active-duty veterans listening to me?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arif
I had a similar observation while deciding to stay nine more years and retire or call it quits and walk away. As I looked at what my bosses were doing workwise I decided to say no thanks. I saw no assignement out there that made me say "Man I can't wait to pin on 04 and get THAT job." The Army has changed too much for me in the last eleven years. I have experienced most of what you just described and talking candidly with fellow 03s they feel the same way. I know a college mate of mine that got out with about 13 years and decided to go to dental school. He was Special Forces while enlisted and I just knew he was going to retire.
BTW- I guarantee that those lessons learned won't be captured or used on the next Ops EVAL. Some of those HQs always seem to be starting from scratch.
OK, you're listening! Same problem in the submarine force. Junior officers went from three-section underway watches and four-section inport duty to department head tours where they experienced... FOUR-section watches and THREE-section inport duty. But of course it was at a much higher level of responsibility and accountability! Those DHs started looking at their XOs & COs, and it's a good thing that the submarines have been leaving the service faster than the officers.

The good thing about this particular HQ is that over one-third of it is manned by a rotating staff of Reservists. Although at least one Ops/Plans office is in total disarray, its Reservists will quietly show up for the same two-week assignments they've been doing for the last xx years, read their notes from last year, and make this year work. Then they'll write the after-action reports and go home, leaving the office's active-duty staff to try and figure out what the heck just happened... until next year!

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowGirl
Husband checked into his new command this summer after returning from Iraq in the spring.* It's been fantastic - he's home by 5 pm unless he decides to bike home, plenty of time for him to train for triathlons PT during the day, the workload is reasonable despite preparing for a deployment, and he has a lot of latitude in training his Marines.
Enjoy every minute of it!* If I couldn't work in the Hawaii Navy then I'd work in Japan.* I lost dozens of my best shipmates there and nearly joined them myself.*

In the mid-90s Lefty Schubert had been stationed in Japan for nearly 15 consecutive years, had raised his family over there, had a fully-employed spouse teaching English, and retired from the Fleet Coord Group at 30 years with more money than he knew what to do with.* And of course he's fully fluent.

When he & spouse went back to the U.S. they left both sons behind.* One of them was learning engineering & business at a Tokyo university.* The other was teaching English and working for a Japanese headhunter who placed Japanese & Americans at companies in the other country.* I bet those "kids" are still overseas.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eagle43
NORDS, great post; deja vu all over again.
Yeah, you know you miss this stuff. NOT.

One of my old COs, American Hero Neil Byrne, used to say that "Every night at least one retired Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cries himself to sleep because he didn't make it to Chairman."
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 06:28 PM   #7
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
* * *
Let's just say that if PowerPoint slides were oil, this week's overproduction would implode their price to $1 a barrel.* OTOH paper consumption is being measured in reams, not pages.*

One of the officers is a "geographic bachelor".* ..... he's proud of the sacrifices that he's making for his family

Why the @#$* do these people put up with this?*

When the assignment officer calls, they know it's his way or the highway.*

If this post reminds me of your office, you have my condolences.*
Nords, Your email is right on target.* You must have a camera in my office.* I am living this as we speak.* The above is some of the lines in your post that really speak to me.*

Powerpoint production is alive and well all over.* Seems like everytime I am at the printer I am loading more reams of paper.* It is nuts.* Often we are more focused on color contrast and format that content takes a back seat.* It is nuts.*

Why do people put up with this...* Well for some the assignment system has them over a barrell or they have grand illusions of moving up in rank.* You should have seen the first GO in my chain when I told him about a month ago that I didn't want to go to the joint staff for my next assignment.* He can't understand why everyone doesn't want to wear stars.* Having been an aide for one of these dudes for 20 months that was enough for me.* They can have it.

Geographical Bachelors.... in my current office we have 4.* One is on a plane every chance he gets to be home with the kids.* The others are so focused on working those long hours and Saturdays to get ahead.* In the spring I will unfortunately become an honorary member of this club.* You do what you have to do when the detailer comes calling to get to the end.* It seems like they really lean on us from the 15-18 year point.*

Keep em coming Nords!

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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 06:38 PM   #8
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Nords,

Great post as usual - I just filled out my paperwork to do my 2 weeks this Jan in OH. I love being a Reservist - I don't sweat promotions, I get trained in areas I can use at my civilian job, I have options outside of Reserves....etc, etc, etc.

Husband is active duty, but said this when he pinned on Captain: " I was prior enlisted for ten years and when I went to OTS, my goal was to make Capt - I've made it so everything from here on is gravy." Our goal is for him to go to 30 (he has to give up some of his retirement pension to ex......nuff said), but after that, we're gone - on the RE bandwagon. Heck, I'll make it even earlier - in two years, if I get selected for a PME school, I'll be activated for 11 months, get paid by the AF to go to school, then follow hubby to net assignment and be a Reserve bum picking up days here and there when convenient to me.

In any case - I do understand....I sure do. You should see some of the geographical bachelors in eastern Europe - crazy stuff.....

Bridget
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 07:44 PM   #9
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
Why do people put up with this...* Well for some the assignment system has them over a barrell or they have grand illusions of moving up in rank.* You should have seen the first GO in my chain when I told him about a month ago that I didn't want to go to the joint staff for my next assignment.* He can't understand why everyone doesn't want to wear stars.
Several years ago my husband was talking with a senior officer about B-billet opportunities (don't know how it works in the other services but Marines tend to alternate "Fleet tours" with low or non-deployable "B-billets").* He told my DH that he should try to get assigned to the worst recruiting station in the country - one that hasn't made mission in 20 years, turn it around, earn that MSM and set yourself up for battalion command.* First question "Oh, is that what you did sir?"* Ummm, no... turns out the guy had spent his B-billet stationed in London for 3 years partying with inspecting Marine staff at embassies across Europe - one of the cushiest gigs in the Corps.

Now its possible that this guy really had regrets about his choice, but since his career was humming along just fine that seems unlikely.* More plausible is that he had finally bought the party line regarding taking billets which are "good for your career."* Since that day DH has vowed not to take any billet just for the sake of his career - (realizing that this may not be an option at the 15 year point, but hopefully the end will be in sight by then)* The other thing cinching his philosophy - seeing great officers with all the right billets work their asses off, and still get passed over for promotion or command.* If there are no guarentees, then why not enjoy your 20 years as much as possible?* *

Quote:
* Having been an aide for one of these dudes for 20 months that was enough for me.* They can have it.
Yikes.* Spouse was forced to interview for one of these positions just a few months ago.* In preparation they sent around a document called "You and Your General!" which is funny now, but was scary at the time.* In the interview, when they got to the point about asking him "Do you know how to use a Blackberry?" he just said - "Look, I'm as competent as the next officer but I came out here to do infantry stuff, this will screw up my career, I would be disappointed if I got the job, and I'm terrible at managing my own time, let alone someone else's."* I was half expecting the General to say "That's the exactly the kind of person I want as an aide!", but instead they said "Thank you for your honesty" and crossed his name off the list.* Whew.

Nords, we definitely plan to enjoy the fun while it lasts.* We're out here until mid-2008 and may get a chance to extend.* I was apprehensive about the spouse taking a job that was deployable after the 3 years of deployments we just went through.* But then we spoke with some of our friends who took the standard* "non-deployable" B-billets back home.* One at the Recruit Depot was having his first full weekend off in 4 months, another at an HQ group is so eager to get out of their that he volunteered to go back to Iraq, and another on recruiting is quote "hanging in there."* None of them gets to sepnd much time at home.* Only our friend at NPS is having a better time than us.

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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-01-2005, 08:21 PM   #10
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlowGirl
In preparation they sent around a document called "You and Your General!" which is funny now, but was scary at the time.*
Yep me and my General.* He was a great guy and the job was not abusive from the boss, but one of the most memorable times was I was up at 0430 and I was having an instant message conversation with my boss.* That is when I realized I was working way to much.*

Tomcat98
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Re: The "WHY" of work
Old 12-02-2005, 07:04 AM   #11
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Re: The "WHY" of work

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
Having been an aide for one of these dudes for 20 months that was enough for me.*
Yikes indeed. Out of the five aides I've worked with, one will be a flag officer soon (in his case it's a good thing) and the other four got out as soon as their obligations expired. Glad you've survived the lack of O2 at that rarified stratosphere...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tomcat98
It seems like they really lean on us from the 15-18 year point.
... and that's how my spouse discovered the Reserves!

Careful what you ask for on that JPME, Bridget, you may get it... OTOH you can probably throttle back and not get sucked up into the career vortex of the other students. A friend of ours is an O-4 who's failed selection to O-5 and who's now ramming through JPME-I for her next fitness report and requesting JPME-II. The next eight months will settle the promotion question but she already has three-year orders to a local MEPS and she recently crossed the 17-year point. I think she's beginning to understand that she's already won the game, but she just can't help running up the score in case it makes a difference at the promotion board. I loaned her my copy of "Work Less, Live More" and we'll see what happens. It's like spreading a virus!
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