Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The road less traveled

This time of year is kind of bittersweet for me...all the good things and the bad things all seem to happen between this Victoria Day long weekend and June. I got married back in '79, and went into the military four years before that. I even died (briefly) on the first of June back in '99 due to an insect bite. All my postings (moves from one place to another) got announced during this weekend, and so I still get a little nervous at this time of year about "what is going to happen now!".
Some 14 years ago, my Warrant Officer called me into his office to tell me that they were going to have to fire me for being too fat. Oh, the military has its own terminology, but that was the gist of it. Apparently, I had gone through the whole testing rigamarole, and they determined that my BMI was just too high, and that I was refusing the direct order to lose weight.
At the time, I was running five to 8 miles a day, mostly around the parking lot, the hangar floor, and the gym. So clearly the weight was not a handicap. In fact, because of the muscle being layered onto my shoulders and legs from all the exercise, I had reversed the weight loss trend and was in fact going back up in weight, though my BMI numbers were inching downwards. But they seemed to think that it was a problem...and who was I, a mere Master Corporal, to tell them otherwise?
The military is a funny organization...very much a nanny state. You are supposed to roll over and take what they shove at you and only squawk in approved ways. I take the road less traveled (of course) and therefore when they presented me with all the release documents and paperwork, I realized that "hey, this is for real". So I refused to sign the documents which would give me the easy way out, the ones that would have me leave quietly and under my own steam, and thought as fast as I could about how I could get out of this. Fists were pounding on the table about how I was "yet again refusing a direct order", and "its that kind of attitude which will get you in trouble." Actually this last line stung under the saddle a bit, and I retorted "You are firing me from my job. How much more trouble can I be in?" Apparently plenty, since I was heading for a court martial, which would mean pension implications as well as a "dishonorable discharge" on my record.
A D.D. ...for being 3 points too high on a BMI index. Well, stupider things have happened.
My answer at that point was "I have never refused a direct order in my life. I will sign these papers at the headquarters building. Thats about 7 miles away. I'll run there. You can jog along beside me, if any of you are still with me when I get there, I will happily sign any of these papers with no squawking or complaining!"
This provoked a bit of a silence since in actual fact, these guys were actually not "out to get me", but rather, were simply trying to impliment a stupid policy, and besides, not one of them could jog to their car in the parking lot let alone run to the headquarters building!
In the silence that followed I let the other shoe drop. "I'll take these documents to my lawyer and he will advise me on a course of action." I'll have his answer, and mine, on your desk tomorrow by close of play". Its amazing how eloquent I can be when the stakes are high!

Of course, you are not supposed to fight back. You are supposed to yell blue murder, and complain, and bitch, but to quietly ask for a lawyer....well....its just not done you know! That not fighting fair! The inner dialogue went something like this "Hey beeotch....thats my career yer farkin wit here! My mouthpiece will sort ya all out!", while the outer dialogue went something like "My lawer has asked to see any paperwork before I sign." Note that I didn't say "its my right" because of course a military member has no such rights.

The Warrent Officer looked at his Sergeant, and told me to get back out on the floor and fix something and they would look over the paperwork and decide what they were going to do with me. This wasn't over! But I had won that battle!


cv said...

I'm glad you didn't just roll over, for the bug or the military.
I like a good fight, particularly a well fought one.

Thank you for sharing your stories with us.

Susan said...

So, finish the story! What was their next move? We obviously know yours!

justagirl said...

Wow! I couldn't take military life for a single day. Probably not a single hour. I am way road less traveled. Good for you standing up for yourself! Yes, tell us what happened!