In a conscript military, everyone has a job to play. Being one of the (fortunate) ones with a history of anxiety, depression and smaller health issues, I was given the role past Basic (and a little bit) as an Admin Support Assistant - a clerk, basically. It is a lazy role compared to combat and other vocations, but for me it does come with a train of responsibilities that leaves me constantly on my feet.
My camp is surrounded by officers and bigwigs - the lowest-ranking personnel in my office beyond us clerks is a Captain. One of my main responsibilities in said office is as the Commander’s Personal Assistant, a Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC), effectively a half-step towards being a full Colonel.
Said SLTC is a Scholar-General, a Masters student brought on as one of the brightest in his batch and fast-tracked up the command ladder, to ensure young blood brews at the top. The system can be a bit of a controversial one, to be sure, but my commander does earn his crests what with being constantly busy. As a Comd PA I am responsible for scheduling meetings and interviews for him constantly, and his timetable at work is constantly packed with meetings straight from 8-5. Thus, as the good little responsible conscript that I am, I do my best to make sure Comd has time here and there to finish emails, engage with the men and head home for enough time to spend with the family. This is not an easy job, as he packs in every opportunity to attend every meeting and exercise and Change of Command ceremony that he can and has to. But he manages. —
Typically, for small things such as invitations, we do not bother consulting Comd. These meetings appear on his calendar with the details condensed and the occasional short brief for any urgent situations. We do not know, should not know and aren’t paid enough to know what the hell goes on in most of said meetings, other than RSVPs and “Booked, Sir, Thank you!”s thrown around for the sake of respect and brevity. So one day, when I receive a little email for an Invitation to Dinner, I turn to my colleague and understudy Private Predator (so-called because he keeps eye-candying the female civilian officers) and say “Yep, lemme settle this, you work on whatever you’re doing.”
So, a brief backstory. Weeks or so before that I went for a little outing with another Clerk who I shall call PTE Almighty. Now, Almighty has a good case as the camp’s Conscript of the Year for good reason - the man knows everything, by virtue of being placed in Manpower and having good relations with almost every officer, from the lowest LTA to even being in the good books of the last Command Sergeant Major. Everyone knows him, and trusts him, and thus he always has the most tea to spill. He is the All-Seeing, All-Knowing God of the camp, able to grease the wheels of many despite being a PTE.
In conversation, Almighty gives us a little insight as to the impressions of the Camp’s newly-replaced Commandant, COL Eddie. Now, COL Eddie has generally been rather decent, what with being the highest-ranked man on the property, but the one thing Almighty notes is that “no one likes having lunch with him”.
“Wait what? Why?”
“Because the man never picks up the tab.” —
Now, weeks after, I look through the details of the email with this conversation off my merry mind.
You are cordially invited to attend the farewell Dinner for BG (Brigadier General) Eddie and associates, at XXX Seafood Restaurant. It would be a distinguished honour for you to join us as this will be his retirement ceremony.
It will be held this Friday night, 1930.
Dinner is not paid for.”
I take a look at the price per pax. As all retirement dinners for people with the rank “General” are, the venue is very much a resplendent one, and the price is best described as “obscene”. I turn to Predator with a trembling finger pointed to my laptop screen.
“What the fuuuuuck.”
I make a light knock on Comd’s office. It is the end of the day, and he is tired, having sat through another day of discussions and consultations. He’s had to eat a cold packed ration lunch, and is clearly ready to go home and spend some much needed time with the wife and kids. And yet, glancing back up at me with the most “Dear God” look in his eyes, I share the quiet understanding with him that he has read that email.
“Sir, on that day, you’ll be busy, right?”
“Yes, Kenny. Please tell them I’ll be busy.”
We share a brief quiet smile between us of pure unadulterated exasperation. I sit down to type out an email to tell them, in cordial, measured language, to kindly “fuck off”.