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Karma is a Bitch [humor; mature content] (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
People say that a man reveals his true character when placed in a position of authority. Nowhere is it more true than in a military setting, where there are fairly few limits on that authority, and one's subordinates have very limited means of resisting it.

Perhaps that is why I picked National Guard rather than the Army to fulfill my patriotic duty. The routine and discipline is pretty much the same, but the relations between superiors and subordinates are a lot more informal. The officers and NCOs of the Guard know that they are dealing with volunteers who willingly sacrifice their free time to exercise in arms and serve their country, so their authority depends on their ability to lead with personal example. Simply pulling rank won't fly here - do it a few times too many, and you will suddenly find a lot of guys requesting transfer to other units, leading to a very unhappy battalion CO whose yearly budget allocations depend on the number of men under his command. And if the battalion commander is unhappy, then so will be certain officers responsible for this unhappiness.

In other words, most National Guard officers and NCOs strive to be the "first among equals" and command first by personal authority, and only then by official rank. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

During my years of service, the officers and NCOs that I've had to deal with can be broadly divided into five groups. The first and best is the aforementioned First Among Equals. These are generally younger folks who have made their career exclusively in the new Western military culture of professionalism. They see themselves as professionals no different from business managers whose duties revolve around organizing and directing workers, the only difference being that their employees happen to wear a military uniform. For them, military service is a job no different from any other. They want to do what is required of them, get paid, go home and not think about it until the next day. That's not to say the First Among Equals do not like their work - they just treat their service like an ordinary job and do not let it define their personalities, nor expect others to.

The next group is the Diligent Soldier, also known as the Crusader. This type is your stereotypical military man. Always prim and proper, and punctual to a flaw, the Crusader strives to be the model soldier and demands that others around be the same. Having a sensible Crusader as your superior can be a positive experience - while he will most definitely cut you no slack and will expect you to observe all the formalities and regulations to the letter, he will also set a personal example and fight tooth and claw to fix any problems that might befall his outfit. Crusaders tend to make good drill instructors and NCOs in general, but if put in charge of routine jobs, they can also make work a living hell for their underlings. Being a stickler for rules, a Crusader will often impose them with reckless abandon and no discretion. The Crusader is the guy who will demand that the security detail of a warehouse that gets five visits a week report to him in every hour on a quiet Sunday, the guy who prides himself on having chased a car fleeing a mortar barrage all the way through the base to issue him a speeding ticket during his last tour in Afghanistan, and the guy who will write up the Colonel in command of the whole base for parking his car in the wrong spot. The Crusader is basically fighting a one-man crusade against the imperfections of a system that he believes should be perfect, but oftentimes lacks the wit and tact to do it effectively. Consequently his excessive efforts will more often than not become counterproductive to any actual improvement. That said, serving under a Crusader can be either a nightmare or a great learning experience - it all depends on the nature of the job, and the degree of Crusader-ness of the said officer or NCO.

The third type is the Little Hitler. This type of officer/NCO is the archetypal asshole, the guy who has failed the temptation with power spectacularly. Driven by a huge ego and an equally massive inferiority complex, the Little Hitler will not pass a single opportunity to remind you that he and he alone is in charge, and you better do what he says, or else. Little Hitler was once likely the weedy nerd who got one swirlie too many from the school bullies, and now that he finds himself in a position of power, he can finally act out his fantasies of revenge by making his subordinates' lives miserable. Little Hitler thinks very highly of himself, although his actual competence and ability seldom stands up to it. He is petty and vindictive, and will make it his personal quest to destroy anybody who questions his competence or makes him look bad. In effect, he is the definition of a toxic boss. The one good thing about Little Hitlers is that they seldom last long - just like their namesake, they tend to piss off too many people on short notice. When struck by the wave of resignations and transfer requests that the presence of a Little Hitler invariably causes, their superiors will rectify the problem by reassigning them to unimportant dead-end jobs where they cannot continue to undermine unit morale and integrity. Without having anyone left at whose expense to stoke their ego, Little Hitlers usually quit their job after the expiration of their contract. A few especially tenacious specimens with the right combination of connections and actual personal expertise, however, manage to remain in service and are spoken of as boogeymen to be avoided like the plague.

The fourth type is the Two-Stripe General. Most often a freshly-graduated lieutenant or corporal, the Two-Stripe General has next to no actual experience in commanding a unit, but that does not deter him from trying (and usually failing miserably). With plenty of brawn and little brain to back it up with, the Two-Stripe General feels he knows it all - or why else would he have had his two stripes or one star bestowed upon him? Two-Stripe Generals tend to combine the traits of Crusader and Little Hitler in that they are sticklers for rules ("because that's what they taught us in the academy") and have an inflated sense of importance, which they loathe to have questioned. Unlike a Crusader, the Two-Stripe General usually doesn't have the actual knowledge to back up his arrogance, nor does he have the tact to exercise his newfound position of authority without antagonizing everybody in his unit. Furthermore, the Two-Stripe General is a glory hound. Keenly aware of his inexperience, he will often go to great lengths to prove himself to his superiors. The more sensible ones will eventually realize they are trying to jump over their own ass and ease up, gradually earning their much-craved respect and recognition of their underlings and superiors alike and no longer qualifying as Two-Stripe Generals. The worse specimens will try to make their reputation at the expense of others. This type of officer or NCO is especially feared and hated in conflict zones, as they have no qualms about taking unnecessary risks and making rash and ill-advised decisions just to prove themselves at the peril of their men. So the unrepentant Two-Stripe Generals can look forward to getting fragged or dying in a friendly fire "accident" should they ever end up in charge during an actual war.

The one good thing about Two-Stripe Generals is that it is most often just a temporary state of transition. As they learn and pick up experience, most Two-Stripes will eventually evolve into one of the aforementioned categories. In the National Guard in particular, a common method of reeducating an overzealous Two-Stripe is putting him in charge of a unit of older veteran soldiers. Most of these guys have served extensively in the regular Army before quitting and later joining the National Guard out of missing the military life and activities. Most are old enough to be the Two-Stripe's fathers, and more often than not also outrank the Two-Stripe. Should the young know-it-all attempt to boss them around in his usual tactless manner, these guys will straightforwardly tell him to fuck off, leaving the shocked and annoyed Two-Stripe with a dilemma. Should he run to the battalion commander and complain about the insubordination and disrespect of his men, he is most likely to be dismissed out of hand and ridiculed - say, what kind of a squad or platoon leader are you if you can't get your men to obey? Should he let it slide, he will have failed at the very task he was put there to do, and without getting his guys going, he will be the first to be punished for their failure. This leaves the Two-Stripe no choice but to smarten up and exercise his authority with more tact, acknowledging that he is still inexperienced and letting the more knowledgeable men of his unit handle things their way, learning from them as they do.

The last and the absolute worst of these groups is the Soviet Praporshchik (warrant officer). Not only does he combine the worst traits of the aforementioned, he is also a hypocrite. The Soviet Praporshchik is a stickler for rules and demands that everybody around be prim and proper like the Crusader, but will always find excuses to flout these standards himself. Like the Little Hitler, he loves to pull rank and remind who is in charge, and is petty and vindictive towards those who fail to show proper fear and awe. Like the Two-Stripe General, he is certain of his ability and absolutely convinced of his importance while lacking both - except that the Soviet Praporshchik is a long-serving officer or NCO with no excuse of youth and inexperience. He will never hesitate to take credit for someone else's contributions, nor to blame others for his own failures and incompetence. The Soviet Praporshchik is lazy, preferring to make his subordinates do all the work, including tasks that should be his own responsibility. Being an older guy near retirement age, he will try his best to weasel his way into a warm spot, a job that requires minimal effort on his part in order to wage a comfortable existence until the expiration of his final contract. Ideally, he will have some subordinates to do all the work for him in this job. At the same time, the Soviet Praporshchik is paranoid about losing this comfortable position should his superiors learn of his laziness and exploitation of subordinates, so he demands that everything be done perfectly (while obviously doing as little as possible himself). He is an absolute master at putting up good appearances and concealing or disguising his fuck-ups - he did, after all, build his whole military career effectively doing just that. On the odd chance that his screw-ups are discovered, he will always shift the blame on one of his subordinates. The Soviet Praporshchik is, in short, the absolute worst asshole that one might ever have the displeasure of having as a superior.


My most memorable encounter with the Soviet Praporshchik type went by the name of Captain P. An old fart in his fifties, he had spent most of his life in the military, starting back in the Soviet days. Evidently lacking the talent or ambition, he had never managed to advance above Captain, and had retired from the regular Army, only to move to the National Guard. Some of the guys in the battalion knew him from their time in the army back when conscription was still a thing. As I heard later, the guy used to punish recruits with multiple days in the stockade for minor infractions that a more sensible officer would have simply corrected on the spot simply because he could, and had attained such a reputation that he would have to take a vacation around the time of the yearly "dembel", when the conscripts from the previous draft would be discharged en masse. For his own safety - his sort knew to stay well away from military bases during "dembel" days, as the men were known to celebrate their discharge by taking physical revenge on abusive officers and NCOs if they managed to catch them on the outside.

I was not on formal duty that day, having volunteered to come over and help Blondie, my CO, with some paperwork as well as clean some guns since there was a pending inspection from the brigade HQ and everything had to look by the book. Blondie exemplified the very best traits of the First Among Equals character type, and we were good personal friends outside work, so I would often volunteer to help her out with various tasks.

When I arrived at the battalion, I first went to greet the guys in the guard room as some lads from my unit were on watch that day. It was here that I first noticed Captain P., but did not pay much attention to him - new guys transferred in every now and then. He seemed to mind his own business as well, so I made nothing of it and proceeded to talk with the lads.

It was here that I was interrupted in mid-conversation by a stern growl: "What's this around your neck!?"

I turned around, only to find Captain P. angrily pointing at my shemagh.

"This is against uniform regulations! Take it off and report to your commanding officer that I reprimanded you!" he barked.

Now, Captain P. was right about shemaghs not being a part of the field uniform. To my excuse, I had caught I light cold around that time, something that others around the battalion knew, and had to keep my neck warm. What really got me was his own slovenly appearance. For one, Captain P. was wearing a beret indoors, pushed far back on the crown with bands loose like a Russian sailor. His jacket was flung wide open, revealing a non-regulation striped telnyashka. All he was frankly missing was a cigarette in the mouth and a black eye, yet he felt his rank entitled him to reprimand me for wearing a scarf. Now, mind that being retired from the regular army, P's was allowed to retain his old rank in the Guard as a matter of courtesy, but in practice it no longer amounted to anything unless the Guard decided to grant him commission.

Despite the overwhelming temptation to tell this prick to fuck off and get his own uniform in order before starting to throw around reprimands, I just said "Affirmative!" out of respect for his rank and old age, and proceeded to Blondie's office.

"Who's that idiot in the guardroom?" I'd ask after the usual greetings and small-talk.

"Captain P.? Retired from the Army and join our battalion last week. Why?"

"He wanted me to tell you that he has reprimanded me for wearing a scarf."

"Did he now?" Blondie chuckled, "Well, then I guess you better not be wearing scarfs around the battalion."

We laughed it off and got to work. After an hour or so of helping her sort through paperwork, Blondie had to run off on her business for an hour or two.

"Tell the Chief of Watch to unlock the armory for you and sign out what you need," she instructed me, "You know the drill."

After realizing that Captain P. was most likely today's Chief of Watch, I went on my new mission with a foreboding sense that it would not go as smoothly as I hoped it would. My predictions turned out to be accurate.

"She really said that?" he responded with an idiotic wide-eyed stare after I informed him I needed access to the armory under instruction from my CO, "No! I won't do that! That's a criminal offense, and I don't do criminal offenses!"

The manner in which he enunciated the legalistic "criminal offense" was almost comedic.

"Fine!" I shrugged, "You can tell her that when she gets back, SIR."

I spent the next two hours happily idling around, sipping coffee and reading a book from the battalion library. When Blondie finally returned, she was predictably unhappy and wanted to know why none of the company's six machine guns I was responsible for had been cleaned yet.

"Captain P. here doesn't believe I am to be trusted with access to the armory," I explained with a malicious grin, knowing what was coming, "He thinks it's a criminal offense. And he doesn't do no criminal offenses."

"Does he now?" Blondie frowned and stormed over to the guard room. What followed was the most epic chewing I have ever seen a guy receive from a woman, Blondie stating in the roughest of terms what she thinks about him wasting the time of her soldiers, informing that things are done differently in the Guard and reminding Captain P. that his old rank doesn't amount to much here.

"And take off that damn hat! You look like a drunk Russian sailor!" she added as she left the guard room with the armory key in hand, with Captain P. sporting the priceless look of a whipped dog on his face.

About an hour later, as I was taking a break from cleaning the guns and having a smoke outside, I saw one of the guys from my security watch arrive, likely for similar reasons as I had. Almost at the same time, Captain P. barged out, nearly dropping his beret as he ran over to my colleague and started to berate him for tailgating. Mind that the guards at the main checkpoint knew him and had let him through along with whoever drove inside before.

"This is an infraction! I will report this to the battalion CO!" Captain P. shouted.

"Okay," my collegue shrugged and went to have a smoke, leaving the good captain fuming behind. At this point, I almost felt sorry for the guy (emphasis on almost). He had spent most of his career enjoying a near-unlimited authority over conscripted recruits, able to punish them at will if he felt like it, and now a measly Private First Class was telling him off straight to his face. The guy just couldn't get his head around the fact that he was no longer the near-omnipotent figure that the conscripts had feared.

"Who's that ass-clown?" my colleague asked along the way, adding injury to insult as the Captain was still well within earshot.

"That would be Captain P.," I explained with a chuckle, "Don't mind him, he's still new here."

Before the day was over, Captain P. had managed to piss off another three people with his attitude. I had a newfound respect for the guy - not everybody can manage to piss off a total of five people over unrelated causes in the space of under six hours. He must have been a natural at this.


Although I didn't have much more personal interactions with this colorful character after that day, this was not the last I would hear of Captain P. Shortly afterwards, he secured himself a comfy job in the security detail of a military warehouse complex. That particular object was popular with old-timers nearing the retirement age, as the job was easy and they could spend most of their day sitting indoors and watching TV. However, there were also younger lads, including one I used to work with back in the base where I worked in the security detail. Now this guy was promoted to Chief of Watch, and it just so happened that Captain P. ended up as one of his charges.

Thing was, Corporal V. had served under Captain P. during his national service period and remembered him well. P. had taken an immediate dislike for him and had singled him out for constant punishments over the tiniest infractions. Now the roles were reversed, and when V. learned that P. would be one of his subordinates, he described it as the happiest day of his life since the birth of his youngest daughter.

Consequently, V. spent the next few months making every watch miserable for P., and recording some of his exploits on his phone to share with friends. He made him walk long patrols around the complex during the worst weather, invented various pointless and humiliating chores to keep him busy, and constantly berated him for being too slow, too slovenly, or whatever else he failed to do to V's satisfaction. Moreover, he never forgot to address him as "Captain-sir" while bossing him around, especially when someone from outside was watching:

"Captain-sir, zip up that jacket and pull up your pants tighter! You look like a hobo! Captain-sir, why hasn't the kitchen been swept clean? Get back in there and this time do it right! Captain-sir, who salutes a superior officer like that? That's how you greet whores on the street! Captain-sir, get your ass over here, on the double! Captain-sir, go and take out the garbage!"

Eventually, I was told, P. stopped wearing his Captain insignia out of embarrassment.

"Yes, we've made P. into an industrious boy alright," V. laughed when we met once and he was showing me some of his videos of P. performing assorted chores. In this one, he was sawing an old shelf in two, with V. standing behind and spurring him on to put his back into it.

"Captain-sir, get your ass over here! You see those cameras on the roof? They've all grown over with vines and I can't see shit from them on the screens! Fetch a ladder and clear them off! Hassle up, chop, chop," V. barks at P. commandingly in another video. P. makes best haste to carry out his orders, while the guy who is recording their antics guffaws in the background. Turns out that P. is afraid of heights, his knees wobbling and shaking as he scales the ladder while V. berates him for being too slow. After getting on the roof and clearing away the vines, P. is about to climb back down when another man comes out from inside the guardhouse.

"He forgot to clear the one on the far end towards the railway," he informs V.

"Hush, don't tell him that until after he gets down," V. whispers with a malicious grin, the guys outside the view chuckling and guffawing between themselves.


That was the last I heard of Captain P. I guess karma can indeed be a bitch.