Fast forward a number of years and I found myself in the position of being the Battalion Adjutant in an Infantry battalion which was part of the 2d Brigade of the First Armored Division in Germany. The picture above shows our headquarters building and it was located on the third floor. Downstairs was our immediate senior headquarters, the Brigade, which also made us the guinea pig for many projects since we were conveniently located right there in the same building. I was fairly junior in the unit and the Adjutant position is usually filled by a senior captain, yet the Colonel (LTC) selected me since he liked my writing style. He had reviewed many reports I had submitted and since administrative support is a principal function of the job as his personal representative, I was given the choice assignment. It was awkward initially since some of the more senior officers resented me, but after a few various run-ins we made peace. I worked hard to learn and master the job, including the requirements to handle paperwork for both non judicial punishment and even courts martial actions, and all went well until my boss was promoted and reassigned and a new LTC took his place. This guy was different and shifty, I just didn't trust him and many felt the same way, but it was the Army so we all just did our jobs and played the game.
Now the Brigade Commander, our commander's immediate superior, was a stickler for his whims, quirks and ways of doing business. Anything out of his expectations could draw a major put down by him at any time and he could be verbally very intimidating. So, luckily having a friend in the corresponding position in the higher command, we always communicated to make sure everything was as he wanted it. But my Colonel, one who had a penchant for trying to do his own thing, made it difficult and on one occasion it almost cost me.
The Brigade Commander had recently put a halt to the referral of any courts martial actions for a sixty day period. He had reviewed a number of such cases in the last few months from several of his other battalions, thankfully not ours, and said they were all frivolous and would waste valuable work time and likely go nowhere. I made note of it and all went well until, a few weeks later, my boss called me in and said he wanted me to draw up paperwork for a summary court martial of a young soldier who was often errant in his ways. When I reminded him of his superior's edict, he informed me that he didn't care and he wanted me to process the paperwork and put it on his desk before close of business Friday. As I left his office, I had to think about it before figuring the best way to handle it.
I sat on it until Thursday afternoon when the Colonel reminded me and I told him it would be ready tomorrow. I called my counterpart upstairs, advised him of the situation and then, to my chagrin, prepared the paperwork. When I presented it to him, he reminded me that I had to put my initials on the side indicating I had prepared it, then awaited his signature. He signed it and it was delivered downstairs first thing Friday morning. In the meantime, I wrote a memo for the record with a blind copy to my friend and went about my daily business. I must confess I was concerned about it all day, but as the five o'clock closing hour drew near, I thought maybe there was a reprieve. I was closing up shop and getting ready to leave when the phone rang.
"Jim, this is Brad upstairs," began my friend. "The Colonel wants you and your boss up here in fifteen minutes. Is the Colonel there?"
I told him he had already left but I'd have the duty driver track him down and bring him back and I hurried up the stairs.
My friend went in with me and I took some comfort since I knew he was aware, but it was still intimidating. There sat the Brigade Commander, a full bird Colonel, glaring at me.
He began by asking me if I understood his instructions and why did I prepare the charges. Well, I could have run my colonel under the bus and I really wanted to, but I decided to just take it on the chin. I trusted that at some point the truth would come out.
"I have no excuse, Sir," was all I said.
Then he asked, "And what did your boss say about it?"
I responded simply, " I can't answer for him but I can say he signed the document and told me to submit it and I did."
Just then my boss rushed in the room and the Brigade Commander glared at him asking, "And Roger, what can you say about this document? Don't you remember my instructions."
The Battalion Commander looked at the paperwork with a dumbfounded look and replied, "This is the first I've seen of it, Sir."
He was immediately ushered out of the room and the senior commander turned his gaze to me and dressed me up and down with spicy language and then said, "Well, if what your colonel says is true, not only did you lie to me but you committed fraud with a document. Get out of my sight, I'll deal with you next week."
I went back to my office, saw that my boss was still in his office. He looked at me, smiling and said, "Thanks for taking it on the chin for me. I know that was hard but I'll make it up to you."
I looked it him blankly and I don't know what got into me but I said, "Colonel, I don't believe anything you just said and I never will again. I don't know what this means to my future but I can't work for you any longer."
I walked out, went home without going to happy hour and had a miserable weekend. I had no idea what was coming and I wasn't looking forward to Monday. And even though I didn't particularly care for our assigned Chaplain, I went to chapel on Sunday and asked God to help me. That did help me get through the rest of Sunday.
Monday morning early I went into the office, got the morning reports in order and the coffee brewing. As soon as they were ready I would put a cup of coffee and the morning reports on the Colonel's desk. I knew that for however long I was still assigned here I still had to carry out my job. But when I opened the door and walked in, I was surprised to find all of his personal effects were gone, cleaned out. I went back to my desk feeling numb and just pondered things. Was my head next on the chopping block? I needed some cheering up.
Within five minutes my friend Brad walked in and suggested we go into the Colonel's now vacant office and talk. He told me he explained to his boss the full story, but was sworn to secrecy, and the Brigade Commander did what he did to get the answer he needed from my boss. When he lied about having no knowledge of the charge sheet, that gave him the leeway to move for immediate transfer. We didn't know where the now disgraced Colonel was but we knew his Army career and any chance of advancement was done.
Three days later his replacement reported in and turned out to be a top quality officer. And on the next day, Friday, as I was preparing to depart for happy hour, the Brigade Commander surprised me with a personal call. He asked me to meet him for a drink on him at the bar and that he wanted to talk with me. When we met, he told me I had done things the right way as an officer. He said my record had always been a good one and my paperwork was always perfect and he wondered what was going on. And then with Brad's comments on the rest of the story, he knew what he had to do and then he simply said, "I apologize for what has happened to you and trust me, it will never happen again under my command."
Heading home shortly later on a Friday night, I thought , what a difference a week makes. And our family would have a wonderful weekend with a little side day trip in beautiful Bavaria. Don't you just love happy endings?