Saturday, June 06, 2015

How life changes us.....

It is kind of funny how life changes us without our ever knowing.  This term in a class, they made a big deal about Paleo-Americans finding their away around places they had never been.  I didn't think of it as an issue at all, and it reminded me......

My last few months in the Army I was stuck in a Cavalry Platoon with this Second Lieutenant named Givens.  At the time, I didn't think much of him.

One night we were out on a training patrol in some chunk of desert I had never been in and I was, as usual at the time, drunk off my ass.  Lt. Givens and the sergeants were leading us in the wrong direction, so I figured I would split.  Someone noticed and the stupid platoon sergeant was actually calling my name.  We were in opposing force territory and the last thing I wanted was to spend the night being interrogated as a POW, so I popped up behind the guy and he proceeded to chew my butt for "getting lost".

I, very carefully and with the greatest respect (not), explained that they were lost and I wasn't going to wander around some frickin desert all night.  This prompted the platoon sergeant to gently explain that he didn't believe I had a clue where I was so I pointed out three incredibly obvious landmarks that had escaped their highly trained notice.  (the light glow over installations).

Now, for some reason They let me lead the platoon to our objective.  Maybe because they figured that they could stop me if I led them in the wrong direction, maybe they figured I would prove I had no clue where I was at and I would make a fool out of myself, for whatever reason they got out of my way and let me loose.  Good decision.

Lt Givens received a letter of commendation for allowing a drunk 19 year old without a map or compass lead his platoon through an unknown hunk of desert patrolled by an opposing force to an objective in record time.

Instead of thinking of Givens as a dumbass who couldn't read a map or compass, I now think of him as a rather astute manager who was smart enough to delegate, even though what passes for common sense would never have conceived of allowing me, drunk, without a map or compass, to lead a platoon to its objective in the middle of the night.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe he just expected me to crash and burn after making him and the sergeants look like fools for pointing out how I knew exactly where I was, but, one of the choices I have made over the years is to try and assume the best about people.

So, while the circumstances haven't changed from that night back early 1980, my understanding of what kind of managerial ability it takes to place confidence in a drunk, 19 year old discipline problem with a chip on his shoulder the size of Everest has changed dramatically.  Lt. Givens now impresses me in a way few people have.

Ain't that a kick?

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