The Difference Between an Atta-Boy and an Oh-Shit

The Difference Between an Atta-Boy and an Oh-Shit

…is one minute.

My squad leader sent me GPS coordinates, with which I could navigate to RTB with my Google Maps. I had a choice of two routes – a 21 minute route and a 15 minute route. I had plenty of time to get there by 0545hrs in the morning, as long as I left no later than 0500 to get to the parking lot at 0530 and Mount Vestie by 0545.

I woke up and remembered all the construction I’ve been through and decided that the 15 minute route might have construction blocking the path or slowing it down. I knew I should have done a route recon last night. So, the 21 minute route it is. Besides, I took a buddy to RTB this way before, so I thought I’d be fine to do it again. Arrival at 0532ish, says my GPS. Not too bad. Right before I have no choice but to drive through the gate off post, I realize that maybe the 15 min route was better. Too late now; in my haste to get in my car I left my military ID and any ID at all in my wallet at home. My GPS leads me to my turn and…it’s a median and a red double-sided gate with a sign that reads “Do Not Enter”. I swing past it and turn around. Park my car a little bit off the median, a tad in the ditch. Hop that fence and ask a fellow in APFUs where if the Mount Vestie was close by.

Him: “Oh yeah, about 400 meters up.”

Me: “Is there a turn around here, I don’t have my ID on me.”

Him: “Yeah, the turn’s not too far back. And there’s no gate!”

I should have ran that exact moment up the road to Mount Vestie. I would have been on time with minutes to spare.

But at that moment, I thought I could find a better answer than the one I had, i.e., park my car in a proper parking space so it wouldn’t get towed. I drove out and when I didn’t see my turn in two minutes, I drove back and parked where I was before, only a little deeper and not as obvious. Hopped that fence and ran. Checked my MGRS GPS to double-check where I was and then ran more.

About 30 seconds to a minute before the clock struck ’45, I heard the scream of formation being released for PRT. As I ran up searching for my platoon, I mistakenly locked eyes with a platoon trainer, and gave my name and initials, as I was late by a minute.

Unfortunately, being late was the least of my worries…my squad leader had attempted to cover for me and said I was at formation when I wasn’t…

Even more unfortunately, command decided not to take this as the minor issue it was, and are calling it an honor violation. Now, my squad mate’s career will suffer and if he ever does go to Ranger School, it won’t be with me our any of our class. Between myself the few people I’ve talked to, the only person who blames myself for my squad leader’s jeopardy is myself. The student PSG blames the guy who whispered into my squad leader’s ear to say I was there, at the last minute. Two other guys blame the platoon trainer for being unduly harsh, something with which he seems to have a pattern of being. But the stark reality is, had I not been late, the events of that day would have never transpired. My squad leader would never have had to make that choice.

All because I wanted a better answer, instead of the one I had right in front of my face.

~Wald

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