In which the Colonel helps by not helping
and my new ‘wife‘ helps too.
I had a chat with my memory and asked it for an idea and we threw some ideas back and forth and we think we have a plan.
I saw the Colonel in the Officers’ Mess on Sunday afternoon and put a bit of my plan to him. One aspect of it needed his help. I was going to send him a request for my class to be given access to the Armament Wing’s collection of old weapons and I wanted him to deny my request in fairly abrupt language. I started to explain and he said he would rather not know the details, which suited me fine because I wasn’t too sure of the details myself.
On the Monday I decided that with only a couple of weeks left I needed to push things along. So I went into my class with a lesson plan that would give me a ten-minute gap at the end that I would need to fill in.
When the lesson was over I sat down and told the men to relax. Then I started to chat about hobbies and I told them the story about my wife’s suggestion about hobbies and how it had all panned out. They thought it was a big joke and just when I thought I might have to steer the chat my way one of the men did it for me.
“Do you still collect cans, Sir?” he asked.
“No, I don’t. I decided it was a bit tame and now I collect old Australian Army weapons.”
“Gee, Sir. Have you got many?”
“Yes, A few.”
“If you like old weapons you need to look at the collection we have over in Armaments, Sir.” It was like Christmas. That was the Sergeant. That was my target. I’m glad I’d talked to the Colonel the night before. As we had always been taught, “You never fail if you follow the six ‘Ps’”. (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance.) I think my plan is coming together.
I wrote out a note addressed to the CO asking for permission to take the class to the Wing to view the Weapons Collection. I explained that there were many aspects of Army weaponry that could be used to illustrate many of the Science elements and laws that we were studying and I thought it would be beneficial to the men’s education.
“Take that to HQ and see if you can get to hand it to the Boss.”
The Sergeant walked of smartly with a huge grin on his face and the rest of the men were excited. It could mean a whole lesson without having to do any real work.
A few minutes later the Sergeant returned.
“Gee Sir, you have really picked a bad day. First of all the answer is ‘No’. Secondly I was told to tell you that next time you want to make a request for a ‘Primary School Outing’, you have to send the request using correct protocols and not little notes. This is not a summer camp and the men can learn what they need to learn without going and playing with old guns.
Have you done something in the past, Sir, to annoy the CO? He nearly put me on a charge just for taking the message. I’m glad I got out of there.”
I was delighted. It was better than I could have hoped.
“Ah well that’s a shame. I hope the “B” has forgotten by this afternoon or I might have to miss drinks. But not to worry I’ll think of something.”
Again, another of the young soldiers gave me the answer I wanted. The older men wouldn’t have dreamed of asking, but the young ones were still a bit wet behind the ears.
“Sir, could we come to your place and see your guns, Sir?”
“I’m not sure. And I only have a couple with me. Most of them are locked up in the country where my Dad lives. I’ll think about it.”
They rushed off to their next job. They were late and I’d probably get a quiet talking to by the Major in charge of their wing. But that makes it even better.
Meanwhile, back at the house, my pretend wife had not been lazy. With only a rough idea of my plan she seemed to outguess me on everything. My gun display case had been moved to a room that she had organised as a boys’ playroom. She’d gone out to all the Salvo stores and other Op shops and bought in a whole load of gun magazines and a few copies of ‘Sports Illustrated’. On the wall was a photo of me holding an AK47 that I had never seen. She had the special ops people in Canberra fake up the picture and even I was taken in by it.
When I told her that night that I was going to have a Bar-be-cue on Saturday she didn’t act like some of the wives I’ve known. She just smiled with a nearly sarcastic smile, and said, “Yes my darling. Of course my sweetness. A BBQ will be just what this marriage needed. And I suppose the wifey dear is to do all the cooking?”
“No. I am going to get the men to ask their wives to organise food. You are supposed to be really cross that we didn’t get our discharge and you are not being cooperative. And when all the girls are here you will take them under your wings and sow the seeds of Army discontent.”
Actually she was being very cooperative. I didn’t let on my entire plan but she went along 100%. But then I suppose it was her job. I was still a bit suspicious of her, after all she had been spying on me all the time I was talking with Uncle Foster, but I was starting to like her a little bit. It wasn’t all that difficult. She was a woman. She smiled when I came home from work, and seemed to mean it and she didn’t complain about cooking and washing my clothes. Yes. I had to admit it. I was starting to like her.
In the morning I told the class that there was a BBQ at my place, the girls to bring food, the boys to bring beer and nobody was to bring their rank. In the Army, and I suppose in every military organisation in the universe, soldiers wear their rank insignia on their uniform. Some men, and women, need the patches on their sleeves or on their shoulders to let all those below them know that they have authority. But there are others who carry their rank in their bearing. These men are the ones who take control at the right time. You remember I told you about that Apprentice who killed himself and the Sergeant took control over me. I was wearing rank on my shoulders, he was wearing a lesser rank on his sleeves and yet he out ranked me in his understanding and command.
If no one was to bring their rank to the BBQ, either on their uniform or in their way of addressing each other, then we would find out who was the real leader of the group.
“My wife won’t want to come, Sir,” said one of the older men. “She is so pissed off with the Army she never goes to anything that is Army.”
“OK. Fair comment. But you tell her that if she does come she can spend the whole afternoon bitching with my wife. As I told you, we were supposed to be in Bali right about now. D’you think she’s happy to have a bunch of gung ho soldiers in her house? D’you think she’s going to stand up and salute whenever you walk in the room. Forget it soldier. Your wife may be pissed off with the Army. You wait ’til you meet my wife.”
“Sorry Sir. I’ll see if I can get her to come. She’s not a bad person – just not a good Army wife.”
“You said it soldier.”
I told Ramona that night and she laughed. It was the first time I had used her name. I knew I had better be careful.