I walked into the Commanders’ office as I was trained to do. All soldiers, from as early as Basic Training, are taught the proper etiquette for reporting to superiors. At a determined and professional march I approached the desk of a sitting Cpt. Lombardo. Halting at the position of attention, I delivered a crisp and clean hand salute announcing my presence. “Specialist (TwistedMedic) reporting to the Commander as ordered, Sir!” Enlisted men salute officers out of the respect for rank. The saluting hand (right hand) is not dropped until the salute is returned. Cpt. Lombardo returned my salute. As I was trained to do, I snapped my hand down to the side of my leg. Remaining at the position of attention, with my eyes straight ahead, I waited for the Commander to speak.
Along the side of the wall stood my entire chain of command. I could feel their glare without physically looking at them. Their presence was as powerful as the heat from a fire burning the side of my face. One by one, Cpt. Lombardo asked each member of my platoon to identify themselves. Each member identified themselves by rank and last name. Cpt. Lombardo then asked me to explain to the group in his office my version of “the incident at N.T.C. that resulted in my being apprehended by Military Police”. Eyes straight ahead, I gave my recollection.
When I finished my brief synopsis the Commander ordered me to leave his office and wait by the C.Q. desk until he called for me to return. Saluting again, I replied, ” Yes Sir!” Once my salute was returned, I executed an about face and marched out of the office.
For what seemed like an eternity I paced back and forth in front of the Charge of Quarters. I knew there would be no turning back once I entered that room again. I had no official plan for my military career at this point. I was simply doing what was in front of me to do. I purposefully pushed any questions of my plan away from the forefront of my mind. To avoid the feelings, I approached my career with an attitude of indifference. I believed I would be spared the humiliation of defeat if I didn’t think about a plan. That was my only plan. However, in this moment, I knew my plan was shit. I was about to walk into the gladiators’ arena and get slaughtered.
I thought of my life in the Army versus my life growing up. There were alot of similarities. As a child I was given an outline for structure to base my life on. My clothes, food and shelter were all provided to me by my parents. The same provisions were awarded to me by the Army. As a child I was expected to behave a certain way or suffer consequences. The Army had the same model for behavior. The difference between the two institutions, as far as I could tell, was that I seemed to thrive in the Army. Unlike my youth, which ended in humiliating defeat, I seemed to have a sense of belonging in the Army. Not only did I feel like I belonged but I was beginning to excel in the very culture that was about to throw me away. Until this moment, I enjoyed every aspect of being a soldier. I was home.
The Commanders’ office door opened and I was ordered to report once again. Repeating the same expectations, I stood in front of Cpt. Lombardos’ desk for the second time. My only hope at this point, I believed, was to carry myself with dignity as I was given my reality. “Please God, give me strength to take the ass beating I am about to receive. Don’t let me cry in front of these men.” I figured I would pray silently. What harm could it possibly do?
The Commander explained to me the suggestion of my chain of command. They wanted me to suffer the maximum penalty allowed for “failure to obey order or regulation”. He went on to explain that if he followed the suggestion of my chain of command he could not hand out the punishment. That punishment, he informed me, could only come from our Brigade Commander under field grade article 15. He then paused and stood up. He asked me if I understood the consequences I faced. My mouth was as dry as sand from the lack of saliva to moisten it. I had a lump the size of a baseball stuck in my throat preventing me from answering. He leaned forward onto his desk pounding his fists into the wood top. He repeated the question. I replied, ” Yes Sir!”, with a cracked puberty riddled voice command. He then leaned back off the desk.
He continued, “Doc, the First Sergeant didn’t like that recommendation so he called for Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason to get a second opinion.” He shot a look of disgust to the wall where my chain of command stood. He then repeated the question both he and Killer Pete asked Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason. They asked each man individually, “If we deployed to combat tomorrow would you want Doc (TwistedMedic) next to you when the shit hit the fan.” Lt. Lombardo asked each man to repeat their responses to me exactly as they responded to him.
Both Lt. Bromund and Sgt. Gleason answered identically: “Without a doubt Sir!”
The Commander restricted me to the barracks for seven days with a matching seven days of extra duty cleaning the barracks until 2200 hours (10:00pm). He then informed me if I ever stood in front of his desk for disciplinary action again he would personally drag me to the Brigade Commander by my scrotum. Again he asked me, “Do you understand me?”
With the relief I can only assume is comparable to men being exonerated from Death Row I answered him, “Yes Sir!”