Sunday, October 12, 2008

I'll Do It, But . . .

When I made Staff Sergeant, the Sergeant First Class who had been in charge of the enlisted men in the office was sent to the black hole referred to in the previous post, and I took his place.

My immediate problem was that the Finance Office had become a dumping ground. When a payroll clerk got out of the Army or was transferred to some other post, it sometimes happened that no qualified finance clerk was sent by the Army to replace him. The Finance Officer would then call the headquarters of one of the companies affected and ask for a body to fill in. First Sergeants often saw this as an opportunity to hide a screw-up, and we would get him. An untrained screw-up. Later, the companies would complain that their men were not being paid correctly. Gee, I wonder why that is.

I set about getting these people some training and help, and started using the calculations unit to double check the vouchers that came from these clerks, instead of just doing calculations for whatever benefits were entered. Things improved some. And then . . .

Around early June, the former NCOIC, the one I had replaced, informed me that for the last two weeks of the year I was to keep all enlisted men for several hours overtime every night. This would last until the end of June. I asked him what this was about, and he told me.

It was the end of the Army's fiscal year, and the office was in the habit of giving the civilians lots of paid overtime in June, justified by all the year end "work" that had to be done. But they felt that they couldn't justify keeping the civilians if they didn't also keep the military personnel, even though there was no work for them to do. It just didn't look good. This was a nice racket for the civilians, but the military personnel didn't get paid, didn't get comp time, didn't get anything for thirty or forty hours of unnecessary overtime.

I informed him that I was not going to keep the military personnel past normal work hours, that they were not only ahead of schedule for June but had made skeleton vouchers for July. There was absolutely nothing productive for them to do.

The next day he came back to me. "The Colonel says you will keep the enlisted men here."

"If the Colonel is ordering me to do it, I'll do it, but my next stop will be the Inspector General's office."

I heard no more about it, the enlisted men knocked off at their usual time, the civilians got their overtime work, and life went on.

But . . . I got out of the Army the following May, and was in Phoenix until sometime in June. I kept in touch with a couple of people and learned that the old practice had kicked in again, and the enlisted men were kept for several hours a night during the last couple weeks of June.

I also learned that I could not get an employment recommendation from the Finance Officer.

Oh, well, there are some things you just gotta be a man about.

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