Palaver from Persimmon Crossingwith Warren Faulk
Career EnhancementMany years ago I had a job that required me to take people to remote places and provide intelligence support to an infantry brigade in combat. We had tents set up in the base camp but rarely saw them. We were nearly always out on operations, living in the field. During a brief stand down a high ranking officer with entourage came to visit us in our rear encampment. He listened to what I had to say, looked over the area and left without saying much.
A few days later I had to make my way via three helicopter rides to pick up our unit's monthly payroll, then reverse and return to the field. Our supported brigade would have been happy to pay us and save all this trouble but our higher headquarters wouldn't allow it. Some kind of turf war within a war.
I got to the big city and the headquarters of the previously mentioned high ranking officer ... and ran squarely into him going in the door. Without even a hello he said "your barracks area didn't look too good the other day". My barracks tents had been largely unattended for the previous 60 days and I hadn't even seen them. I was dead tired and without sleep in recent memory. I really lit into him. Nobody was going to say anything remotely critical of my people unless they at least,and first, recognized the hard work they were doing. I didn't take too kindly to being criticized myself either ... still don't. Anyway I reeled off something about there being a war going on where I lived and that I was even less well impressed with his headquarters area and the people that worked there. The truth is his headquarters looked fine and a lot of real dedicated people worked there but I was way beyond the last straw. I felt I was carrying the whole bale of hay around and that no headquarters weenie was going to call me up short regardless of his rank or position.
Well, we squared off like two bucks in an oak grove, his eagles and my tiny silver (blacked out) bars going nose to nose. By the time we were through he could have court martialed me for a half dozen things of which I was surely guilty and sent me back to Alabama or to Leavenworth Prison. Instead he just walked away. After a brief pause, I opened a second door to a hallway and about 20 people piled out. They had been afraid to enter the area where the squabble was going on but didn't want to miss anything and were pressing against each other, trying to hear us. I doubt I laughed at the time but it really was funny.
A few weeks later I was called to this same headquarters to attend a meeting where some new operational instructions were to be issued and explained. A quick read convinced me that the plan was unworkable. Not just difficult, but impossible. The job was doable, but not the way the headquarters staff had it figured ... and guess what. I told them so. So did the only other person with recent field experience that was in the room. Well, there were about 20 of them against the two of us, but we held our own. Things got pretty loud and at some point the "high ranking officer" slipped into the back of the room. He listened for awhile, got up, pointed straight at me and said "I'll see you in my office before you leave".
I went as instructed, hat in hand. He offered his hand and said " we'll do it your way. Send me some notes"..."Mostly I was afraid you would leave without saying goodbye" (I was about to rotate back to the states). I was flabbergasted.
A few months later I attended a formal New Years celebration. Colonel McFadden was in attendance. When he saw me he called the gathering together and began to use words like heroism, grit and other things that nobody had ever said about me before. He was telling people who were senior to me that I was their example. He wanted them to be like me. I am proud of that moment now, yes. But at the time I was embarrassed to the bone. I was a very young Army Captain by then and had only gone to Officer Candidate School. I had not a college credit to my name.
My next promotion came ahead of my peer group and the Army packed me off to college free of charge and paid my salary while I was there. No way that happened without Colonel McFadden's involvement. I think he may have seen something of himself in an earlier war, in me in mine. I choose to believe that and take great pride in it.
Sometimes, if you uncork a temper tantrum at just the right moment, it can do wonders for your career.
-- Warren Faulk
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