Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cell Phones Change Army Paperwork

Those of you have have read Joseph Heller's Catch 22 know that in any big bureaucracy that paperwork is reality--real life is 2nd place. Today I got a call from our admin NCO saying the battalion was asking for a list of Non-Deployable people so they could start replacing them. I had told 1st Sgt and Sgt Major about the plan for the surgery and that I would be ready to go on the 29th. But the HQ guy with a No-Go list in his hand was Army reality. Our admin NCO called me, verified some facts and got me off their list. Before cell phones, I might have been replaced before they could reach the right people. Paper is reality in the Army.

The best instance of Catch 22 in my life is the reason I am a resident of Lancaster PA. I grew up in Stoneham Massachusetts. I enlisted in 1972, got out in 1974 then decided to go back in the military in 1975. The recruiters in Lancaster offered me a much better deal than the one in my actual home town, so I signed up in Lancaster. I needed a local address so I used PO Box 334, Brownstown PA. Four years later when I was ready to go to college, I assumed I should apply to schools in Mass. The education office said No--you are a resident of PA. My parents were still living in the house they bought when I was 4 years old, but my DD Form 4 (enlistment contract) said Brownstown PA so I was a PA resident. Actually this turned out great because it meant I could go to Penn State U at resident rates and the next year, in 1980, PA decided to give tuition bonuses to soldiers who served during the Viet Nam War. I ended up with most of college paid right through a masters degree. All because of how I filled out a form.

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