I saw one of my soldiers today.

My son had a lacrosse game tonight and asked me if I’d photograph him.  I told him I would, but I might be a little late, I needed to run some last minute errands before leaving on my motorcycle trip.  Normally when I’ve shot in the past I’ve shown up early and stayed the whole game.  This time, because I was late and the game already started I found out that they normally charge for the games, in the past I’d just shown up before the ticket takers.

I rarely carry cash anymore so I went across the street to the 7-11.  While in line, one of my former soldiers walked in.  After I finished paying, I popped back and said “Hi”.  He still has a high and tight so I asked if he was still doing the reserves thing to which he made a smart-alecky negative response.  Outwardly I made the socially appropriate noises and facial expressions, but inwardly I gave a silent prayer of relief.

He was young when he reported to me.  And a know-it-all with no real world experiences yet to show him how stupid and arrogant (with no good reason) he really was.  He never did anything big enough for me to bust him, but he never gave me any reason to trust him.  That unit wasn’t in the pipeline for any deployments, so it was incredibly lax and really tied my hands when it came to disciplining and training my soldiers.  He never would’ve survived in an active duty line unit.  But in a reserve, rear echelon unit?  He was just one of many.  Not a team player, self centered, selfish, lazy, etc.  An oxygen thief.  Someone who milked the system for his own benefit and who I never saw paying it forward.

I wished him well and went my way, thankful that I had the excuse of my kid’s game to rush back to.  For a very brief instant, I’d been happy to see him, because of what he reminded me of, my time in service.  But once that passed, I was glad to be rid of him.  Maybe that sounds harsh, but that was my reality for years.  Working with those hard-charging units and having to build a team of solid, dependable, self supporting guys out of raw materials.  Not just in training scenarios, but for real combat.  Prepping myself, mentally and physically to be a good teammate, a good follower and a good leader.  Making the difficult judgements on my soldiers, identifying their strengths and finding ways to marginalize the impacts of their weaknesses.

I’m glad he’s out and never deployed.  I’m even more glad he’s out and never held a leadership role.

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