Although in my experience it was dumbass officers and their inability to plan or outright fear of making a decision that triggered most Hurry up and Wait scenarios. Either way, back in 1999 I was forced into a Hurry up and Wait/no-win situation between my wife and the South Carolina National Guard that I so successfully navigated by changing the rules Captain James T. Kirk would have approved.
It started on Saturday morning on a typical drill weekend with my squad and I performing our usual duties. That involved our preventive maintenance checks on both our communication equipment and the military vehicles and took most of the morning. Nothing exciting and my squad went about the duties efficiently but still having a good time catching up with each other.
After chow, the rest of that day was spent on various soldier's training classes with neither the officers nor senior NCOs saying anything about important tasks that were supposed to be accomplished. And when we had the final formation later that afternoon, everyone in the unit went home thinking the Sunday drill would be a breeze.
The next morning though something had radically changed. The First Sergeant's demeanor at roll call that morning was icy at best and when the company CO (Commanding Officer) appeared, the entire unit knew something bad was up.
The company CO was at best a mediocre officer with little imagination and less personality who rarely left his office during drill weekends. Past experience had shown when he did walk out on the armory drill hall floor among the troops, something quite bad was about to happen.
The CO told everyone that the battalion commander, his boss, wasn't happy with our performance and that no one would be going home that day until he had a happy smile on his face. That to make the battalion commander happy would require a visual inventory of all our equipment. Something that probably should have started bright and early the previous morning to have a chance of being accomplished in a reasonable time.
Once the CO said his piece the First Sergeant took over and instructed the cooks to begin planning an evening meal, which meant we'd still be at the armory well past eighteen hundred hours. (6:00pm)
Here's where this situation was really going to screw me over. My son, who was four years-old at the time, was supposed to have his first soccer game around 2:30pm that day. Throwing more troubling gasoline on the fire, my wife and I were supposed to supply the after game snacks for the entire team. These snacks, consisting of twenty juice boxes and twenty packs of cookies, were being stored inside my car which was in the armory parking lot.
My wife's attitude about the National Guard was in no way going to get her invited to the wives' support group. Simply put the Guard had a really bad habit of fraking up any family plans. If something important or fun was going to happen in our area that month, you can bet a large sum of money that it would occur the same weekend as drill.
Naturally, after formation everyone was assholes and elbows to try and get everything done so we wouldn't have to stay so late. Remember National Guard troops are “citizen soldiers” who have civilian jobs and didn't want to be dead tired the next morning at the start of a normal work week. Even worse, some people work nightshift and would be going to work around eleven o'clock that night.
Contrary to what can only be called propaganda put out by the National Guard, most civilian employers hate having workers who also play weekend warrior. Having an employee in the Guard screws up work schedules and has a habit of pissing off coworkers who end up covering for the individual who is playing Guard soldier. Patriotism in America may be a mile wide but its depth can often be measured in inches.
My main issue was my son's soccer game. Missing that game was going to get me in big trouble with my wife and the rest of the team because of the snacks. But all during that morning I had absolutely no idea how I could break away in time or even get the snacks to my wife since she wouldn't be allowed on armory property.
Despite what the CO said about needing to make his boss happy, the rest of the morning turned into a Hurry up and Wait nightmare. All the unit officers got rounded up for an important meeting which somehow brought a stop to all activity. None of the NCOs wanted to proceed without assurances that their decisions were the right ones.
By chow that early afternoon I was getting pissed. I would have accepted the circumstances and continued to play the good soldier had the inventory continued like it was supposed. But when you had about one-hundred seventy or so troops just sitting around doing nothing it was time for me to think out of the box.
That outside the box thinking took the form of an old fashioned telephone booth inside the armory drill hall. Remember this was 1999 when cell phones hadn't yet become totally widespread. Yes, the phone booth was a relic even back then, but a nicely convenient one.
The drill hall floor was a buzz of activity, so no one really paid attention to me as I stepped inside and closed the door. Plus this phone booth was on the far end of where the company offices were located, so there was little chance anyone high up in the leadership would see me and later figure out my plan.
My plan revolved around calling one of my brothers and having him phone my unit and say he was involved in a car accident in Columbia and would need a ride back up to Easley, South Carolina where he lived. Which is more or less a two-hour drive from my location.
Thankfully my brother answered the phone and over the course of fifteen minutes we quickly ironed out the various details required to make my scheme work. Yes, it is better to tell the truth but in this instance the means did justify the end.
After hanging up I did my best to sneak away from the phone booth hoping no one would remember seeing me there. All that remained from then on was hoping my brother, who was nursing a nice beer buzz would remember to call my unit and give me a solid excuse to get the frak out of Dodge.
A nervous thirty-five minutes later the loudspeakers mounted on the drill hall floor and outside in the motor pool call for Sergeant Johnson to report to the office. I tried to play extra casual with everyone as I reported but no one will ever say I could be an actor.
Some seriously young Second Lieutenant I had never seen before handed me a note saying my brother was stranded up around north Columbia after being in a car accident. That he was okay but needed a way back home since his car was banged up pretty bad.
The Lieutenant was going to cut me loose right then but the First Sergeant, a grizzled veteran who knew all the bullshit tricks stopped me as I was walking out. I handed him the note and repeated what the Second Lieutenant told me but I knew he wouldn't buy the story. The First Sergeant, took a deep breath then looked at me with an expression that confirmed what I feared. He clearly knew the whole story was a heaping pile of bullshit.
But instead of chewing on my ass and kicking me out of the office he said go get your brother and we'll see you next month. I have no idea why he went along with my scheme. I wasn't on his shit list but then again I wasn't in the group of soldiers he tended to favor. Whatever the case, the time was coming up on two o'clock and if I hurried across town I would make the start of my son's game.
I arrived at the game five minutes before it started and only earned a stern look from my wife. My son's team had their asses stomped but me being in my army BDU's serving juice boxes and cookies was a hit with the kids.
The following month, I learned that the rest of the unit wasn't dismissed until nine o'clock that night. No one ever made a comment about me skipping out the previous month but I sure as hell did my best to stay under the First Sergeant's radar from that moment on.
Yeah, I have no regrets and put into a similar situation I'd do it again.