Why South Sudan?

“Come See Me.”
        I exhale. It’s 0430. I’m in my warehouse. The email is from my boss-it arrived at 2230 last night. I flag the email as important; attach it to my calendar to reference for his 0745-stand-up meeting. I have less than 3 hours to finish clearing out my emails before the interruptions start. 

        I enjoy the thirty-five min walk across the Spanish military base. I rehearse the topics I want to discuss and take intermittent moments to appreciate silence: there is no pressure to contribute any more than forward momentum.  

        My boss, the Major, had explained earlier that week that we needed to follow the ongoing 2017 South Sudan Famine; that we needed to prepare for a possible Humanitarian Assistance mission. I was enthralled and started reviewing intelligence briefs; lessons learned from previous humanitarian missions—specifically Haiti; and developing ways to optimize and economize aid through emerging technologies.  I prepared a draft Concept of Logistical Support (COLS) plan, ready to present and brief upon request—this was a mission I was enthralled to support.  I learned that South Sudan had the highest illiteracy rate in the world and was reminded of boy from Zanzibar.

The call to support South Sudan never came.

        On this particular morning, I was, however, happy that the Secretary of Defense tweeted about the Open Water Survival Training that our Marines participated in. I wrote that contract with INERSCO and—despite Marine Forces Europe/ Africa trying to block the deal—we were able to get the right people to bless it off. Success. 

        I arrive. Headquarters, building 1301, pronounced 13-OH-1, and referred to as 13-No Fun. I pass security; put my electronic devices into a locker; swipe my I.D.; and enter into the building. I walk just short of my boss’s door. Inhale. Exhale. 

         “Close the door behind you. You’re late,” said the Major. 

        I check my watch. 0743. I look up at the clock on the wall. 0743. I look down to my boss, he’s leaning back in his chair. Arms crossed. “That clock’s wrong, it’s analogue. It doesn’t count,” said the Major. 

         “Of course, Sir.” 

        He stands up, paces back and forth with his hands behind his back. Chin down. 

         “I’d like to have you up at the headquarters building because I keep getting asked questions about the budget. The Colonel has been bugging me about the fiscal year closeout and I don’t know that stuff as well as you do. How can we make it work?” he said. 

         “Well in any given week I spend over 12-14 hours up here in meetings, so maybe it’s not the amount of time I’m in the headquarters building,” I reply. “Also, since I’ve moved down to my main warehouse things have--“ 

         “Lieutenant, I didn’t ask for an update. You’re going to move your office up here. I’ve already made up my mind. I just need to know how much time you’ll need down at your warehouses and when you’ll be down there,” he interrupted. 

        I nod. “Yes, Sir.” I’m not going to win this argument, I thought. 

The truth of the matter is that I should be speaking on behalf of all fiscal and supply matters to the Colonel. 

        Unfortunately, there’s always a Major looking to get in-between the Supply Officer and Commanding Officer. I was adopted by the Major (the Colonel saw working with me as a development opportunity for the Major). 

        I know what’s best for the unit when it comes to supply—it’s not the guys above you that you should be worried about—it’s the 18-year-old without tourniquets that’s about to go out on a mission. That’s one reason the Supply Officer works for the Commanding Officer, in this case, the Colonel. Abraham Lincoln had a leadership principle called “Leadership by Wandering Around,”and it’s simple...get out of your ivory tower and walk the lines. One of those 18-year-olds told me we were about to run out of antibiotics the same day a Captain tried to convince me his guys needed YETI coolers. I needed to be on the floor. 

         “I think that the mornings are perfect to work up here (HQ bldg.) and then I could go back to my warehouses in the afternoon. Our shipments tend to arrive in the afternoon and that’s just one of our friction points. This would also set us up because after our morning meetings...I could take the news and report back to my guys,” I replied. I didn’t mention that I was essentially repeating my schedule, meetings in the morning, warehouses in the afternoon. 

         “Okay, SupO. I also want you here on Saturdays and Sundays as well, is that going to be a problem?” said the Major. 

         “No, Sir.”
         “Good,” said the Major.
        He walked over to his desk and started filing through his papers. I look up at the “wrong” clock.

         “Sir, it’s almost 0900 do you want me to sit in on the staff meeting?” I reply. I didn’t actually want to go to the meeting. I was reminding him that the meeting was about to start. 

         “Sure, I’ll be there in a bit.”
        Damn it.

Kevin LenahanSPMAGTF-CR-AF