Case Study: Tabs and Tyrants

Ooh-Rah

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Private Thigpen about to get fucked the hell up.

1) No she should not have been playing. This is the LT's first real fuckup; she had not business being in that situation and the only reason he let it happen is because he enjoyed the ego stroke of his smoke-show girlfriend hanging out with his Soldiers. Ridiculously poor judgement.

2). Thigpen is a fuckup, but he didn't try to hit her. He's obviously got no reflexes or athletic ability and she deeked him out.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. I hope you publish the part where the Sgt. Major has Faith's ass for this.
 

racing_kitty

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It was after duty, so no, I don’t believe he was out of line letting the girlfriend play. It’s not college or pro ball, it’s playground ball after they’d concluded business for the day. Just because it’s not out of line doesn’t make it smart.

I don’t believe that Thigpen did it on purpose; that’s just how blocked shots roll. My parents had to replace a few pairs of glasses thanks to blocked shots when I was playing, and what happened with Lilith and Thigpen doesn’t deviate from my experiences with unintentional injury.

Having said that, it’s my opinion that Faith handles it well. Check on her, because there’s blood and she’s lacrimating despite her best efforts not to, and get her patched up for sure. But he should’ve made it clear that it was an accident, and no recriminations against Thigpen would be tolerated.
 

x SF med

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It was after duty, so no, I don’t believe he was out of line letting the girlfriend play. It’s not college or pro ball, it’s playground ball after they’d concluded business for the day. Just because it’s not out of line doesn’t make it smart.

I don’t believe that Thigpen did it on purpose; that’s just how blocked shots roll. My parents had to replace a few pairs of glasses thanks to blocked shots when I was playing, and what happened with Lilith and Thigpen doesn’t deviate from my experiences with unintentional injury.

Having said that, it’s my opinion that Faith handles it well. Check on her, because there’s blood and she’s lacrimating despite her best efforts not to, and get her patched up for sure. But he should’ve made it clear that it was an accident, and no recriminations against Thigpen would be tolerated.
^^^What Sister Mary Hellfire said.
 

medicchick

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She should never have been forced onto the guys playing. They said no but rank was pulled and so she played. It may have been after formation and not formal pt (although she appeared to have butted into that on the ropes) but it was a platoon event not a family event.

As for Thigpen, who knows since the guy ain't right in the head and she showed him up on the ropes.
 

0699

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It was after duty, so no, I don’t believe he was out of line letting the girlfriend play. It’s not college or pro ball, it’s playground ball after they’d concluded business for the day. Just because it’s not out of line doesn’t make it smart.
Was it? It sounds like it was a mandatory platoon event. Maybe I'm just reading it that way.

I think Faith should have kept his GF away from unit PT. 23 years, I never felt the need or desire to take my GF/wife to any unit function except "family events". Hell, my wife didn't even call me at work unless it was an emergency.
 

Kaldak

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It was after duty, so no, I don’t believe he was out of line letting the girlfriend play. It’s not college or pro ball, it’s playground ball after they’d concluded business for the day. Just because it’s not out of line doesn’t make it smart.

I don’t believe that Thigpen did it on purpose; that’s just how blocked shots roll. My parents had to replace a few pairs of glasses thanks to blocked shots when I was playing, and what happened with Lilith and Thigpen doesn’t deviate from my experiences with unintentional injury.

Having said that, it’s my opinion that Faith handles it well. Check on her, because there’s blood and she’s lacrimating despite her best efforts not to, and get her patched up for sure. But he should’ve made it clear that it was an accident, and no recriminations against Thigpen would be tolerated.
I'm with EOD on this.

Also, with Thigpen being such a screw up, if he meant to do it on purpose, he would have missed.
 

DasBoot

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Faith called Lilith right before final formation, and Lilith pulled up just as the formation was ending. She was wearing sneakers, sweatpants, a larger “MACON UNIVERSITY” sweatshirt, a red knit had and black gloves as insulation against the cold. The members of 5th platoon wore their winter PT uniform of gray sweats, black leather gloves, a black watch cap, and a reflective PT belt.

After the formation broke up, 5th Platoon drifted over to the PT pit on the far side of the parking lot, and Lilith joined them there. The pit contained a set of pullup bars, a situp area, and a large contraption made of telephone poles, from which two 30’ ropes dangled. After the first and last formations of the day, the platoon adjourned to the pit for pullups and a rope climb. The 101st “Airborne” Division was actually an Air Assault unit, and a significant portion of Air Assault School involved climbing a rope. Faith never quite got that, since in an actual air assault you’re sliding down the rope not climbing up it… but whatever. Practicing the rope climbs helped the platoon’s new arrivals prepare for the course.

There was no formality at all to it; everyone knew the drill. While some individuals mounted the pullup bars, others queued up for the rope. The ones who were waiting stamped and shuffled to try to help ward off the cold.

The hardest part of climbing a rope in this weather, Faith mused, was the effect that the cold had on one’s hands. In order to get a good grip on the rope, most people (Faith included) had to strip off their gloves. And of course when that happened, it exposed one’s hands to the cold, making the hands turn numb and increasing the difficulty of the climb.

Climbing a rope was all about technique, and Faith’s technique was to use his legs more than his arms anyway, so his hands were basically just used to hold himself in place when he repositioned his legs during the climb. Lilith watched as Faith easily made his way up the rope, slapped the bar at the top, and then shimmied back down. The roped were close together, and some of the Soldiers would race each other to the stop. Seeing Lilith watching the action, Sergeant Spence asked her if she wanted to give it a go. She jumped at the chance, and climbed the rope using the hand-over-hand technique, which was harder than the leg-based “inchworm” that Faith and many of the other Soldiers used.

When Lilith got done with her first climb, she took a rope in each hand and was able to pull herself halfway up the ropes using that technique before she tired and let herself back down. That technique required a level of upper body strength as well as a degree of coordination that most people didn’t possess. Only a couple of men in the platoon could do it. The Soldiers were impressed.

“Show off,” Faith joked to Lilith after she finished her second climb. She just smiled.

There was only one Soldier in the entire platoon who couldn’t make the climb. Try as he might, Private Thigpen just couldn’t climb the rope. He was weak in the upper body and had not sufficiently practiced the majority-legs “inchworm” technique. Faith wasn’t particularly concerned about this. In fact, most of the young private that came to the company couldn’t do it, because it’s not something that a lot of people do prior to joining the Army. Faith certainly never did.

That sentiment didn’t save Thigpen from getting cajoled by his platoon mates, though. “Thigpen, you suck. Even that girl can climb a rope, and you can’t.” Faith didn’t intervene. Sometimes negative peer pressure worked wonders on someone’s motivation.

After the rope climb, the platoon moved across the street to the outdoor basketball court for the game. The court was set up with six hoops, and during warm weather it was usually jam packed with Soldiers and family members. With today’s wind and bitter cold, however, it was deserted. The young Soldiers in 5th Platoon had been running their mouths for weeks about how they could take the “old men” in a full court game. The original intent was for the four youngest Soldiers in the platoon were going to play the four oldest. The young players were all quite good. Faith and Ellery were also good players, but the other two oldest members of the platoon, Staff Sergeant Spencer and Staff Sergeant Watkins, were mediocre at best. And playing full court gave the younger men, who benefitted from greater stamina, more of an advantage.

At 22 years old, Lilith was shocked that she made the cut for the “old people team.” But the Infantry was largely a young man’s game. The Young Bucks, as they called themselves, were 21 and younger. Faith was in his mid-20s, and Sergeants Spence and Miller were in their early thirties, and Ellery was, of course, the oldest at 37. The average age in the platoon was 23, and it was only that high because Ellery was an outlier.

Faith insisted on letting Lilith play, but the Young Bucks were reluctant. First of all, they didn’t want to play against a girl. Especially the LT’s girlfriend. If something happened to her, the LT might get mad at them. They also didn’t want to take on a fifth player, because the only other person in the platoon under 22 was Private Thigpen. And Thigpen, of course, was going to be a liability.

“Look, my girlfriend came all the way up from Georgia and I don’t want her sitting around getting cold why I school you in basketball,” Faith explained to the other team. “Besides, she’s just a girl. You all aren’t afraid to play against a girl, are you?” That proved to be a winning argument. The Young Bucks decided that the liability of Thigpen was offset by the Old Fogeys having a girl on their team. So now the match was set.

Now there were two things that Faith didn’t mention to his troops about Lilith. The first was that she was gymnast in her younger days. The other was that she was on a competitive intramural basketball team back at school. If she wasn’t so focused on her studies, she probably could have made the women’s team. Faith already knew that she was going to have no problems doing a rope climb, and she was probably going to put on a clinic on the basketball court.

The two teams sized each other up. Faith was guarded by a young troop with quick feet and fast hands. Faith found him almost impossible to guard. So in the time-honored tradition of old men everywhere, he started fouling the shit out of his opponent. It wasn’t anything flagrant or malicious, just a little hand check here, a little shirt grab there, a little hip check during a rebound. It might have gotten called in a college game, but it wasn’t going to get called out in street ball. Seeing her as the least threat, Thigpen was assigned to guard Lilith. This was a bad mismatch, and the first time she had the ball, she did a ball fake that caused him to leave his feet, and she then drove in for an easy basket. The Young Bucks won the first game, but it was best out of three games to 11 baskets. The Old Fogeys eked out a win in the second game, sending things to a third and final game.

Thigpen quickly established himself as the weak link on the Young Bucks team, and the Old Fogeys exploited it mercilessly. The Young Bucks tried switching from a man on man defense to a zone, but it didn’t help. In the last game, the Fogeys began to pull ahead.

Faith had expected that the rest of the platoon to hold their own game on the other court, but the Young Bucks vs. Old Fogeys was so entertaining that they stood on the sidelines and watched… and cheered, heckled, and/or coached the players. Despite his best efforts, the man Faith was assigned to guard was the highest-scoring player on either team. He was just too good. The problem was, his supporting cast wasn’t giving him much help. The Fogeys had several scorers. Faith wasn’t sure how many she put up, but Lilith had found her stride in the game and was scoring pretty regularly.

Thigpen lurched to catch up, and launching himself from the ground, swatted full force at the ball.

She switched hands mid-air in order to make the shot, which caused Thigpen’s hand to miss the ball entirely… and land squarely in Lilith’s face. Stunned, she fell on the ground. Blood immediately erupted from her nose. She rolled onto her side, using her shirt to try to stem the flow.

This, of course, brought the game to a screeching halt. Specialist Stringer, who was standing near the goal when this happened, was furious. “You did that on purpose!” he screamed at Thigpen. Faith wasn’t so sure. From his standpoint, it looked like a simple, if painful, foul. Things like this were going to happen when you played with Joe…

Faith ran to Lilith’s side and kneed down beside her. “I’m OK… I’m OK… ,” she kept saying, although it was clear she wasn’t. She kept the top of her t-shirt pressed against her face and maneuvered first into a sitting position and then, with some of the other players’ help, to her feet. Her nose was bloody, her eyes were puffy, and she was crying. It wasn’t heaving sobs, but the tears were there. Faith got it. The cold weather made skin more sensitive, and catching a hard foul in the face like that would make anyone tear up. Once she was fully on her feet, the platoon medic gave her face a quick look.

“Might be broken,” he offered unhelpfully. “She needs to get it checked out. She’s definitely going to have two black eyes,” was his prognosis. “Sir, you should take her over to the TMC and see Doc Stone, he’ll check her out and get her fixed up.”

“Thigpen, get your ass over here,” Faith heard Corporal Laser say as he pulled away to take Lilith to the TMC. “You made the LT’s girlfriend cry…”

1) Was Faith out of line in allowing his girlfriend to participate in platoon activities? What should his reaction have been to her catching that hard foul?

2) Do you think Thigpen hit Lilith on purpose?
1. Yeah. That was dumb. You need to keep family at “arms length” from work- non-dependant significant others aka girlfriends, even further away.
2. No he’s just retarded. There is a slight chance he was so embarrassed he panicked and did it. Regardless he’s doomed.
 

Marauder06

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I can see how forcing the guys to allow the LT's girlfriend to play could come across as a dick move. That's not how it happened IRL. I may change that part in the final writeup.

The game is after hours. I envisioned it as a good-natured grudge match within the platoon. In the 101st back in the day, we weren't allowed to do team sports during PT hours, and anyone playing ball outside during the duty day was asking to get jacked by somebody's CSM.

I was in charge of the same platoon for a long time. It might have been over 2 years. I dated my now-wife during that entire time period. She would come up to school to visit every once in a while, and over time she got to know some of the members of the platoon, like my PSG and the squad leaders. Sometimes she'd bring us cookies or whatever. I don't remember the exact circumstances but she did do the rope climb with us at least once (albeit not with the "one hand on each rope" technique), and she did play basketball with us once.

One winter when we were on "white cycle" (the time when your unit is on chogie-boy taskings for post) we would do two-a-day PT sessions around our various taskings. We'd PT our ass off in the morning and usually do some kind of team sport in the afternoons. I preferred ultimate football but my platoon was into basketball so that's mostly what we did. This particular game, we shot for teams as usual, and my girlfriend was on the opposite team from me. We played outdoors, and it was cold. She was a good player, but she was about a buck-o'-five and playing against infantrymen who were not only bigger and more aggressive, but who also didn't really feel bound by any of the game's rules. So it made for an interesting game. She did get hit in the face, but it was from a member of her team who went up for a shot and then tried to dish to her at the least second. She didn't get her hands up fast enough and it caught her full in the face. She did tear up, which was totally understandable given the circumstances. She sat out a minute or two and then came back into the game. The Soldier that passed to her did teased by some of the other troops about "making the LT's girlfriend cry." ;)
 

0699

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And thus, a new safety brief was formed... much to the chagrin of grunts everywhere.
Every spring, our church hosts a spring weekend men's retreat in the mountains west of here. On Saturday afternoon, we are able to use any of the fun events at the camp; archery, driving range, zip line, etc. Last year, on the zip line, I decided to go down inverted. Perfectly safe, and when I take interns at work out rappelling I have them go inverted just to show them how safe they are in their harness. So at the zip line I went inverted as soon as I stepped off the tower and turned upright before I got to the landing zone. I then had the following conversation with the camp staff member there:

Staff: "Sir, please don't go upside down any more."
Me: "Sorry, I didn't hear in the safety brief that we couldn't."
Staff: "It wasn't sir, but it will be now."

;-)
 

ThunderHorse

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Every spring, our church hosts a spring weekend men's retreat in the mountains west of here. On Saturday afternoon, we are able to use any of the fun events at the camp; archery, driving range, zip line, etc. Last year, on the zip line, I decided to go down inverted. Perfectly safe, and when I take interns at work out rappelling I have them go inverted just to show them how safe they are in their harness. So at the zip line I went inverted as soon as I stepped off the tower and turned upright before I got to the landing zone. I then had the following conversation with the camp staff member there:

Staff: "Sir, please don't go upside down any more."
Me: "Sorry, I didn't hear in the safety brief that we couldn't."
Staff: "It wasn't sir, but it will be now."

;-)
You mean they go down Australian? :p ( We did this at Saint-Cyr once, and they called it Australian, gosh that tower was huge)

One winter when we were on "white cycle" (the time when your unit is on chogie-boy taskings for post) we would do two-a-day PT sessions around our various taskings. We'd PT our ass off in the morning and usually do some kind of team sport in the afternoons. I preferred ultimate football but my platoon was into basketball so that's mostly what we did. This particular game, we shot for teams as usual, and my girlfriend was on the opposite team from me. We played outdoors, and it was cold. She was a good player, but she was about a buck-o'-five and playing against infantrymen who were not only bigger and more aggressive, but who also didn't really feel bound by any of the game's rules. So it made for an interesting game. She did get hit in the face, but it was from a member of her team who went up for a shot and then tried to dish to her at the least second. She didn't get her hands up fast enough and it caught her full in the face. She did tear up, which was totally understandable given the circumstances. She sat out a minute or two and then came back into the game. The Soldier that passed to her did teased by some of the other troops about "making the LT's girlfriend cry." ;)
Sir, you know there's an amazing sport called Rugby you could play? Much better!

My last SCO before I went to the Plans section was IN LOVE with Ultimate Football. As you could imagine, his team always won.
 

Marauder06

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Doc Stone was the physician’s assistant on duty in the TMC when Faith arrived with Lilith. He was a prior-service Special Forces medic before he went the officer route and became a PA. He was well-loved within the battalion because of his sense of humor and his well-known love of taking care of the troops. Because she was bleeding, Lilith was seen right away. Doc Stone checked her injury, and gave welcome news.

“Well, it’s not broken, but it’s likely you’re going to experience some swelling, and probably you’re going to have one or two black eyes,” he explained. “Team sports,” he sighed, “is the highest casualty-producing weapon in the entire military.” He suggested that she rest, drink water, ice the crap out of her injury, and take some Motrin for the pain and swelling.

For her part, Lilith took it like a pro. Injuries are common in contact sports, especially when you play with Joe. This wasn’t the first time she got hurt playing basketball; she had her jaw broken in high school. She wasn’t upset, and she definitely wasn’t angry at Thigpen. But she was embarrassed that she cried in front of the platoon. “Just reinforces negative stereotypes of women,” she explained. Faith didn’t think so. In that cold, getting hit in the face as hard as Lilith had, Faith thought he’d probably rolling around on the ground, bawling like a baby. Either that, or that kind of foul—intentional or not—would be the start of an on-court fight. He thought Lilith handled that MUCH better than he would have.

For Lilith and Faith the weekend ended better than it started, and when Lilith left on Sunday night to go back to school, she had some minor swelling in her nose, and just a hint of bruising under each eye. “Easily concealed with makeup,” she said reassuringly.

The next Monday immediately after PT formation, Private Thigpen approached LT Faith. “Sir, can I talk to you for a minute?” he looked upset.

“Sure Private, what’s on your mind?” is what Faith said, but in his mind he was thinking, “Oh God, what now?”

“Sir, I’m really sorry about what I did to Miss Lilith. I didn’t mean to hit her,” he said earnestly.

Wait, that was it? “Yeah, ok, it’s no problem, Thigpen. It’s part of the game. She wasn’t even really hurt. It was mostly the cold weather.”

Thigpen looked somewhat relieved.

“Well, OK, but do you think I could call her, just to make sure she’s ok?”

“God—no,” said Faith immediately. He knew that this was just another example of Thigpen’s socially awkward nature and nothing nefarious. “Um, I mean, she called me last night when she got back to school and she told me to let everyone know that she’s totally fine, and she appreciated being allowed to PT with the platoon” Faith explained. This statement also had the benefit of being true.

Thigpen still looked a little unsure. “Roger sir, it’s just that I can’t do anything…”

“Thigpen!!” came a shout. Faith noticed Corporal Laser jogging up. “Oh, sorry sir,” he said, saluting Faith, “I didn’t know it was you.”

“No problem Corporal, Private Thigpen and I were just finishing up.”

“OK Thigpen, you know the drill, let’s hit those ropes,” Laser instructed.

Thigpen nodded, exchanges salutes with Lieutenant Faith, and then jogged unenthusiastically towards the rope pit.

“He’s not a bad guy,” Faith thought as Thigpen jogged away, “he’s just a bad Soldier. I can work with that.”

-----
OK—you’re LT Faith in this story. Individual and crew-level collective training is an NCO responsibility, but collective training and everything that happens or fails to happen in your platoon is your responsibility. What is your plan for Thigpen, knowing what you know at this point in the story?
 

ThunderHorse

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Doc Stone was the physician’s assistant on duty in the TMC when Faith arrived with Lilith. He was a prior-service Special Forces medic before he went the officer route and became a PA. He was well-loved within the battalion because of his sense of humor and his well-known love of taking care of the troops. Because she was bleeding, Lilith was seen right away. Doc Stone checked her injury, and gave welcome news.

“Well, it’s not broken, but it’s likely you’re going to experience some swelling, and probably you’re going to have one or two black eyes,” he explained. “Team sports,” he sighed, “is the highest casualty-producing weapon in the entire military.” He suggested that she rest, drink water, ice the crap out of her injury, and take some Motrin for the pain and swelling.

For her part, Lilith took it like a pro. Injuries are common in contact sports, especially when you play with Joe. This wasn’t the first time she got hurt playing basketball; she had her jaw broken in high school. She wasn’t upset, and she definitely wasn’t angry at Thigpen. But she was embarrassed that she cried in front of the platoon. “Just reinforces negative stereotypes of women,” she explained. Faith didn’t think so. In that cold, getting hit in the face as hard as Lilith had, Faith thought he’d probably rolling around on the ground, bawling like a baby. Either that, or that kind of foul—intentional or not—would be the start of an on-court fight. He thought Lilith handled that MUCH better than he would have.

For Lilith and Faith the weekend ended better than it started, and when Lilith left on Sunday night to go back to school, she had some minor swelling in her nose, and just a hint of bruising under each eye. “Easily concealed with makeup,” she said reassuringly.

The next Monday immediately after PT formation, Private Thigpen approached LT Faith. “Sir, can I talk to you for a minute?” he looked upset.

“Sure Private, what’s on your mind?” is what Faith said, but in his mind he was thinking, “Oh God, what now?”

“Sir, I’m really sorry about what I did to Miss Lilith. I didn’t mean to hit her,” he said earnestly.

Wait, that was it? “Yeah, ok, it’s no problem, Thigpen. It’s part of the game. She wasn’t even really hurt. It was mostly the cold weather.”

Thigpen looked somewhat relieved.

“Well, OK, but do you think I could call her, just to make sure she’s ok?”

“God—no,” said Faith immediately. He knew that this was just another example of Thigpen’s socially awkward nature and nothing nefarious. “Um, I mean, she called me last night when she got back to school and she told me to let everyone know that she’s totally fine, and she appreciated being allowed to PT with the platoon” Faith explained. This statement also had the benefit of being true.

Thigpen still looked a little unsure. “Roger sir, it’s just that I can’t do anything…”

“Thigpen!!” came a shout. Faith noticed Corporal Laser jogging up. “Oh, sorry sir,” he said, saluting Faith, “I didn’t know it was you.”

“No problem Corporal, Private Thigpen and I were just finishing up.”

“OK Thigpen, you know the drill, let’s hit those ropes,” Laser instructed.

Thigpen nodded, exchanges salutes with Lieutenant Faith, and then jogged unenthusiastically towards the rope pit.

“He’s not a bad guy,” Faith thought as Thigpen jogged away, “he’s just a bad Soldier. I can work with that.”

-----
OK—you’re LT Faith in this story. Individual and crew-level collective training is an NCO responsibility, but collective training and everything that happens or fails to happen in your platoon is your responsibility. What is your plan for Thigpen, knowing what you know at this point in the story?
Seems Corporal Laser is doing his job pretty well taking care of Thigpen.

In regards to his GF, yeah you're not going to call her and apologize, especially since she's good to go. If the line was broken, don't break it anymore.

This takes me back a bit though. We had a retired SF Major who was a contractor assigned to our ROTC battalion and taught MS1s. I could just see his wife doing the same thing. She played Division 1 Women's Basketball at Chuck South wayyyy back in the day. She'd play with the faculty at lunch games and tear it up beyond the three point line.
 

R.Caerbannog

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Every spring, our church hosts a spring weekend men's retreat in the mountains west of here. On Saturday afternoon, we are able to use any of the fun events at the camp; archery, driving range, zip line, etc. Last year, on the zip line, I decided to go down inverted. Perfectly safe, and when I take interns at work out rappelling I have them go inverted just to show them how safe they are in their harness. So at the zip line I went inverted as soon as I stepped off the tower and turned upright before I got to the landing zone. I then had the following conversation with the camp staff member there:

Staff: "Sir, please don't go upside down any more."
Me: "Sorry, I didn't hear in the safety brief that we couldn't."
Staff: "It wasn't sir, but it will be now."

;-)
That's no fun. Based on experience, some people just live to take the joy outta everything.
 

Cookie_

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I had to go back through the case study to find out how long Thigpen has actually been at the unit.
When Faith first saw Thigpen being hazed, it seems Thigpen was still basically a FNG

"Private Pigpen here,” said the probable-NCO, “won’t take a shower. Hasn’t taken a shower once in the month he has been here.
Now, I'm not sure exactly how much time has passed since that incident, but I'd still be willing to work with Thigpen.

Thigpen managed to pass basic and AIT, probably because he's a good follower; his problem is he hasn't become a self-starter yet.
That's basically every single private I get now that I'm in the guard. It can take a few months to drill that attitude into them.

Faith doesn't really need to do anything. Thigpen is in a good spot, with the whole NCO chain supporting his improvement.
Give Thigpen a chance to be integrated into the team, and give him some simple but important tasks in which he can succeed and build his confidence.
Something as simple as CPL Laser going "Hey Thigpen, Lt need us to get the data plate information off our vehicles. Let me help you with the first few, then you do the rest."
 

Marauder06

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That afternoon, LT Faint received a summons from the Battalion XO via email: “My office, 1300.” That’s all it said. For a lieutenant in 1/327, being called to the XO’s office was like being called to an office meeting with Darth Vader—someone was going to get Force-choked… hopefully, only figuratively. Faith was apprehensive, but he noted that there were a number of other lieutenants on the “To” line, so either all of them were getting fired, or none of them were.

Faith dutifully reported to the staff duty officer at the appointed time, and he and the other lieutenants were ushered into the XO’s office. The XO sat at his desk and didn’t even bother to look up.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “Like 99.9% of your peers, you were selected for First Lieutenant. The ceremony is tomorrow at noon. Pick someone to pin your new rank. Dismissed.”

Well, that was unexpected.

Unlike most other officer promotion boards, promotions to first lieutenant was handled at the battalion level, and almost automatic at 18 months of service unless there was some kind of major failure or misconduct. Faith knew that it was getting close to his 18-monht mark but didn’t know it was already here.

Near-100%-promotion-rate or not, Faith was elated that he would soon replace his gold Second Lieutenant bar with a silver First Lieutenant one. He was somewhat irked about the short notice; his parents weren’t that far away but they couldn’t drop everything and drive up here with one day’s notice. The same was true of his girlfriend, who was still in school six hours away. Lilith couldn’t come up in the middle of the week for something like this. He decided to not even tell her, or his parents, that the promotion was happening. That way no one would feel compelled to go out of their way to make it.

The obvious choice to do his promotion was, of course, Sergeant Ellery. While Faith wasn’t exactly excited about being on the receiving end of one of Ellery’s shoulder-sundering blood pinnings, there was no one in the unit that contributed more to his success, or for whom he had more respect, than Sergeant Ellery. For his part, Ellery seemed pleased that Faith asked him to do the honors.

The next afternoon, a row of young lieutenants stood at attention in front of a horseshoe formation of all of the officers in the battalion. The battalion commander said a few nice words about them as a group (he didn’t know any of them well enough to say anything about them individually), and then he called for the Battalion Adjutant to “publish the orders.” The promotees were lined up tallest to shortest, and Faith, being the tallest officer in the battalion, was first in line. As the Adjutant read the orders, the “pinners” came forward out of the crowd. Like Faith, most of the other lieutenants had their platoon sergeants do the honors. One LT asked his company commander, one had a Command Sergeant Major (Faith later found out that it was his father), and yet another LT had a fellow lieutenant promote him. Faith thought that was strange, but then again Bravo Company was full of weirdos.

“You ready, sir?” Ellery asked. Faith nodded.

Before the promotion ceremony, Sergeant Ellery had cut away most of the threads holding Faith’s rank on, to make it easier to remove. When it was time, Ellery grabbed the cloth rank, ripped it off with one smooth flourish, and tossed it backwards over his shoulder. From the corner of his eye, Faith noticed others who hadn’t done the same preparation struggling to remove their promotees’ rank. One individual had to resort to pulling out his knife to cut the old rank away. “Rookies,” Faith thought with a smile.

Ellery removed a bright silver First Lieutenant bar from his pocket and poked the pins through the Faith’s collar. This insignia was for ceremonial purposes only, after the ceremony it would be replaced by a black “subdued” version of the rank. After lining up the rank in its proper spot, Ellery smoothed out Faith’s collar. The left side still featured sew-on branch insignia, but the right collar had pin-on rank, the sharp points uncovered by their protective clips. Faith knew what came next.

“You ready, sir?” Ellery asked again.

“Do it,” Faith ordered.

Ellery brought his hands down onto both sides of Faith’s collar with a thunderous CLAP that brought a collective “OOOOOOHHHH!” from the crowd and caused Faith to take a step back. But Faith felt… nothing. He realized that Ellery had cupped his hands so that it made a very loud noise, but the palm of his hands never actually made contact with the rank insignia. At that moment, Faith understood what Ellery told him that day after Wilson’s promotion, about never having done a blood pinning. By making such a big production of seeming to do a blood pinning, he pre-empted everyone else who would legitimately do a blood pin, sparing Faith (and everyone else that Ellery promoted) from potential injury, and everyone else from a potential hazing charge. Faith wasn’t sure what he was more in awe of, the fact that Ellery did this, or that literally everyone Ellery had ever promoted kept their mouth shut about it.

A more or less similar scene unfolded down the line, but Faith could tell from the reactions of the other promotees that no one else used Ellery’s technique. Ellery placed the covers on Faith’s rank pins, took a step back, came to attention and rendered a sharp salute. “Congratulations, First Lieutenant Faith,” he said.

The battalion commander was first in line, followed by the sergeant major and then the XO. There was no formal line, just kind of a crowd of people standing around, each waiting to congratulate the new lieutenants in their own way. When the XO got to Faith, he started to remove the pins from Faith’s collar insignia to issue his own blood pinning. “You don’t need to do that sir, I already got him good,” said Sergeant Ellery. Faith wasn’t sure how the XO was going to react to that. But the XO and Sergeant Ellery had a long history of working together.

The XO paused and looked at Ellery for as second. “Yeah, you sure did,” he said with a laugh. He put the pins back on Faith’s rank, shook his hand, and moved down the line.
 
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