A few of you have asked me why my tour extension was denied. Believe me, I 've asked. I mean, who wouldn't want a Soldier with 20 yrs experience in the intelligence field staying to help get things up and running quickly? I certainly would. No one will/can say at what level the decision was made. It could've been our Battalion Cdr - who doesn't like undue attention (remember the Mouse that Roared update?), it could've been the incoming Battalion Cdr - who might not want an "uncontrollable" Soldier who speaks his mind when things are jacked up. It could've been our higher HQ in Wash DC where everyone is concerned with appearance and protocol - 2 things I follow, but don't really build my life around. Whatever the reason - I'm headed home.
Battle of wills with Mary
As you probably already know, Sister Mary Danger has a mind of her own. She does what I ask of her – because I practice what I preach and always help out, but it usually has to be “her” way. Because she’s a great Soldier, good at her job and always willing to lend a hand, I let her steely free will run loose. I mean, if I tried to control everything about my team mates’ lives not only would they be miserable, but the mission would suffer. I think there needs to be a healthy level of freedom of thought and action in order to succeed. I give them a task and let them figure out the best way to do it. Naturally I provide guidance, and you’d be surprised at the results of those who feel empowered and a part of the solution instead of robots, fulfilling the orders from above.
Sometimes my requests are completely normal and make perfect sense, sometimes they don’t. Well, I’m the boss and they like or tolerate me so I usually get my way eventually – even if it requires much persuasion and a few guilt trips. Mary and I had such an encounter not too long after Easter. You see, someone back home had sent a cute Easter basket filled with goodies. The teeth-rotting candy wasn’t the interesting part, it was the “basket” in which the goodies had arrived.
The basket was actually some small, cloth-covered bucket with a sturdy handle. The entire thing was covered in Army camouflage material. It was hilariously adorable – the ideal gift a Mother or Grandmother would send her deployed child. I want to say someone had sent it to Mary, but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, it ended up on her desk, after I placed it there. Mary was none too happy. She kept moving it off her desk and onto the shelf next to the desk. I kept putting it back on her desk.
“What the fuck?” – Mary’s usual, articulate response to seeing the basket on her desk over and over again. About this time Tyler was visiting us. Tyler is a team leader (like me) from another location in the province. He’s a great guy, full of personality, dead set in his stubborn ways and a smoking buddy to Mary. Those two and Chip are always outside puffing on the cancer sticks. Tyler likes the basket too but doesn’t know that I’m tormenting Mary with it, until he hears one of her usual outbursts the umpteenth time I replaced the camo basket on her desk in her absence.
“What? It’s cute!” he says. Mary glares at me, “Why are you torturing me with this thing?!” she yells out to no one in particular. “Tell you what – put it on your arm like a purse, walk around the room like a runway model for me and I’ll throw it away.” I say to her. And what do I hear but “Fuck that! It’s against my morals!” As I said before – I’m not convinced Mary understands what that means. And I’m not so sure even Mary knows what her morals are. Needless to say, she didn’t budge.
A few days later Tyler started bugging her about wearing it to no avail, she wouldn’t do it for anyone. You see, once Mary gets it in her head to NOT do something, it’s nearly impossible to change her mind. That didn’t prevent all of us from tormenting her – she had made such a stink about it that everyone was now harping on her to carry the damn basket on her arm, me being the loudest.
Mary was in a good mood one day when all the nagging to carry the basket started anew. Of course she wouldn’t carry the damn thing for me, but she did for Tyler. But it wasn’t that simple. I take off to “water my plants in the orchard” and Tyler kicks in the psychological twist, picking up the basket, putting it on his arm and prancing around the office yelling “I don’t see why this is so hard.” He goads Mary into taking the basket from him and skipping up and down the room once. I walk in just as she’s done, quickly taking the basket off her arm. They were all laughing.
I don’t know why I was mad. Maybe because Tyler got Mary to do something I couldn’t, or because Mary would do that for Tyler but not me, or because everyone was laughing and enjoying the toughest chick skip around like a little girl, or because maybe if I had held back watering for a few minutes I would’ve witnessed the “Follow the yellow brick road” routine Mary did. Tyler explained what happened and recreated his prance for me, so I put that stupid ugly camo-colored easter basked with the neon pink shredded straw on my arm and skipped around the office. I remember being mad and frustrated, and extending the length between skips as much as I could – really pushing it.
In retrospect I think, what kind of role model was I, to skip around the room like a crazed lunatic, doing something I ordered a trooper of mine to do? Let me tell ya, deployments make people do strange things, and when a person is strange to begin with, well – strange takes on a whole new meaning.