A Lot of Stuff Can Happen
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This article was originally written in 1996 as the closing chapter for my book, The Three Meter Zone: Common Sense Leadership for NCOs, Presidio Press, April 99. In a revision of the book it was removed and replaced by another chapter. In Feb 1998, Dan Elder published it on his E-zine, The NonCom, on The NCO Website. Since Dan's publishing of the article I have personally seen at least five different versions of it traversing e-mail (the latest was today, Nov 30, 1998) with various folks claiming or implying ownership. It even turned up once in an addition of COL (Ret)David Hackworth's Defending America Newsletter, credited to an unkown author. So, if you see one around with a different title and personalized to suit the latest author of it, just remember that what follows here is the original. I encourage you to personalize it anyway you'd like and send it to everyone, just give original credit please, and invite them to visit the Bunker and read the original. The Army Times also published a polished version of the article in the Dec 14, 98 issue's Back Talk. Thanks. -JD

A Lot of Stuff Can Happen

J. D. Pendry

"For the times they are a-changin." -Bob Dylan

I've spent a little over twenty-six years In the Army. That's seven years more than I've spent out of it. During that time a lot of stuff has happened. Some of it to me, some of it around me. Just recently, I've been total quality managed, one-minute managed, synergized, had my paradigms shifted, had my paradigms broken, learned about highly effective habits or was it habits of highly effective people, seen things from the top, been reengineered, been in the box and out of the box, wore my corporate hat, been on a couple of bus trips to Abilene, learned about taking charge, learned about value based leadership, had some guy that talks too fast tell me who I am is because of where I was when, and now I'm even thinking about a little chicken soup for the soul.

What good has any of that stuff done for me? Some, I guess. On more nights than one it helped me fall asleep while I was trying to read everything I could get my hands on. All, while feeling insecure that some paradigm shifting, Total Quality Management, out of the box, reengineering conversation would come up and I wouldn't know all of the appropriate buzz-words. Just now, I got some good physical fitness training, carrying this box of books to the basement. I piled them right on top of my other collections of self-improvement, get rich quick, winning friends and influencing people, buns of steel and diet books.

I've also been down-sized, built-down, drawn down, restructured, reorganized, centralized, decentralized, deployed and redeployed.

I've been Firo-B'd, Myers-Briggsed, psych evaled, and a few other tests and assessments whose names I can't even remember. They all indicate I'm an introverted, sensing (whatever that means), thinking, judging kind of person with a dominant, insensitive, blunt, type A+ personality, who likes to get the job done, the way it's supposed to be done, when it's supposed to be done without putting a lot of emotion, hugging, kissing, and back slapping into it.

My head is so full of everybody else's ideas about what it takes to make me and the organizations I'm associated with better that I am beginning to wonder if it's possible to have an original thought of my very own. Or, if anyone even expects me to.

Has any management, self-help, leadership, or get rich quick book ever worked for you? The only thing they ever done for me was give me an idea about what folks were talking about when they started spouting the latest buzz-phrases. When I get in these conversations I normally react by getting out of the box quick to keep from getting hurt when those paradigms start shifting. Another reason I get out of the box quick is because what's in there sometimes gets deep - quick. The only person who ever got rich quick from a get rich quick book is the guy who wrote the book, or made the tape or produced the infomercial. Am I the only one who knows that?

A lot of other things have happened to my Army and me. I've seen forward deployed turned into power projection, active defense turn into Airland Battle, cotton fatigues turn into permanent pressed that turned into NATO woodland camouflage battle dress uniforms. I went from starch to no starch from pressed to fluff dried only to get back to starch again. I've gone from poplin, to green. From khaki to tropical worsted to short sleeved green shirts. From winter wool and summer wool/polyester blend to polyester. From skinny ties to fat ties to not so fat ties. From leather to corfram. From military creases to no military creases back to military creases. From M16A1's to A2's, M79's to M203's, from nothing to SAWs, from LAWs to AT-4's, from .45 Cal to 9MM. From quarter ton jeeps to HMMWV's (hum-vee). From butt packs and cargo straps to cadillac rucksacks with aluminum frames. From steel pots and helmet liners to kevlar. From a real entrenching tool to that aluminum thing. From a pistol belt with brass connectors to one with plastic connectors. From green socks to black socks. From white t-shirts to green t-shirts to brown t-shirts. From sew on rank to pin on rank to shoulder boards to a combination of all three. From a green wind-breaker to a black-wind-breaker to another black, more expensive, less effective wind-breaker. From a green raincoat to a black raincoat, from a green overcoat to a black over coat to one coat that replaces them both. From field jackets to gortex parkas. All of that old uniform stuff is in my basement with my self-help books.

I've went from the pay-line to check's in the mail to direct deposit. From the no mistakes allowed morning reports to, well, SIDPERS. From Underwood manual typewriters, carbon paper and mimeograph machines, to IBM selectric and 3M thermal transfer. From dot matrix to letter quality to lasers, Xerox color, the Internet and FAX machines. I've been LANned, WANned, webbed, E-mailed and Home-paged. I've gone from Autovon to WATTS to DSN to cell phones and beepers. From serial numbers to service numbers to the SSAN. From draftees to volunteers, from VOLAR to BOSS. From the Army wants to join you, to be all you can be, to high school today, flight school tomorrow.

I've gone from fatigues and boots, to yellow banana suits, to Army gray, spandex and just do it shoes for PT. I've gone from a male PT test and a female PT test to a unisex PT test. From WACs to no more WACs, to male and female segregated basic training to integrated back to segregated and back to integrated. From Basic here and AIT there to OSUT. I've been BCTed, AITed, PNCOCed, BNCOCed, ANCOCed and a few other NCOCs. I've gone from proficiency pay tests to MOS tests to Skill Qualification tests to Self Development tests to no tests, unless you count the Common Task Test and I don't have to do that anymore either.

I've gone from long hair to no hair from handlebar mustaches to almost invisible ones. From no awards to awards bloat to no awards and back again. From no control to weight control to out of control. From blood stripes to no stripes to plenty of stripes to no stripes again. From no physical fitness, to fanatical physical fitness, to good physical fitness. From no training to good training.

I've gone from California to Korea to Virginia to Korea to Pennsylvania to Alabama to Germany (consecutive tours) to Texas to Virginia to Germany to Virginia. From Nixon to Clinton and Viet Nam to Desert Storm. I've gone from a drug and alcohol abusing, racially torn, poorly trained and equipped Army to one that is so good that its worst enemy is over-confidence and complacency. It's been a great trip so far. I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Copyright© 1996, James David Pendry All Rights Reserved