Monday, July 23, 2007

FT Stuff, part II

When I said I was going to talk about FT, I stated that some of the stories would be not so funny. This is one of those.

My flight lost two cadets on TD-28 (the last day of training.) They got kicked out for misconduct. They misconduct was getting into an altercation the day before. It took the rest of that day and most of TD-28 for the investigation to occur, the decision to be made, and for them to out process. When we were standing in formation on the reveille/retreat pad having our last retreat ceremony, we could see one off in the distance in civvies toting his suitcases, leaving the encampment.

It goes without saying that the whole incident put a damper over the celebration that occurs on TD-28. However, I apparently played (and am still going to play) a pretty pivotal role in the whole incident. I didn't find this out until later, after I had left the encampment. Talk about a buzzkill.

I had several paragraphs written here going into a little more detail about the incident and what was happening now, but I'm going to hold off on publishing that for now since while the investigation itself has closed, there is an on-going appeal. And the last thing I want is for something I've written here to somehow affect the process. God knows I've already affected this thing enough.

Just so it's clear what's going on, I was a witness to the incident and gave a statement. My statement apparently played an important part in the decision to send one of the cadets home. From what that cadet has told me went on in his discussion with the brass, there was a communication foul up somewhere in the line and the impression the brass had of the incident based in part on my statement was not what I was trying to convey.

The whole reason I'm writing this tonight is that tomorrow I have to sit down and write a memo for an appeal packet that cadet is putting together to try and get reinstated. So this is obviously on my mind now, as it was earlier today when I was driving back home from visiting a few friends in Ames (lots of time to think on that road.)

Where my thoughts eventually took me was that this incident was a wake up call for me. Officers have to make decisions and take actions every day that are going to affect people's lives. This is something I knew. However, it is one thing to understand this in the abstract as a distant possibility. It is quite another to actually make a sworn statement and then find out later that you have had a direct effect, literally, in someone's entire future. The worst thing about this whole situation is that it falls in a grey area. If I had observed this cadet committing some sort of gross misconduct, there would not be this struggle going on. It would be black and white; he gets sent home. Period. But this incident fell, as it so often does, in those grey areas between right and wrong, between what the rules stipulate. And coming up tomorrow I have to make another one of those statements and decisions that will affect someone else's entire future.

It should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: there is no struggle going on within me as to what the "truth" is. I know the truth of the incident as I saw it; it's what I wrote down in my first statement and it's what I'll be putting in my memo tomorrow. However, the dilemma I am facing is how to make the officer who will be making this decision understand what exactly happened. Obviously, there was some sort of disconnect the first time around because what I wanted to convey was not the conclusion that was drawn.

And the cloud hanging over this whole thing is that I literally hold a significant chunk of this cadet's future in my memo. It's an awesome responsibility, one I did not think I was going to have to be shouldering for at least another few years.

Being an Officer. It's not all fun and games.