Friday, February 06, 2009

"What Comes Armound...": A True Story (Part 4)

[NOTE: This is a retelling of what is probably the worst thing anyone has ever done to me and how I ended up getting a small measure of revenge in the end. Everything in this story is true to the best of my recollection.]

The contract ended up taking a long time to get finalized and as a result I didn’t actually start the job until around December 1st. Sometime in late November as it was being finalized, I was introduced to the man who would be my new boss, LTC Ned Fanning (Not his real name). As it turned out, LTC Fanning was from Brockton, Mass. And was a huge Red Sox fan like me. The Red Sox had won the World Series for the first time in 86 years just a few weeks earlier so Red Sox fever was at an all time high and so we had an immediate bond. LTC Fanning had been brought in a month or so earlier to manage the deployment cell and my old section had been placed under him for the deployment. The problem was, he had no clue what my job entailed and he joked about it often – ‘Well, I know how to spell it now!”. He was always going 100 miles an hour and was so focused on other things that he didn’t want to have to take the time to worry about what we were doing, which was another reason why I was hired. However, as I quickly discovered, Barrett had become quite good at the job. He had taken advantage of my 2+ month absence by completely taking over everything and making it his own. I was not worried though, we were good friends, we worked together well before I had gotten out and I knew we would have no problem working together again under the new arrangement. He did seem different from the get-go though. He suddenly was a lot more serious and didn’t joke around as much. Whereas before it had always been a tradition to grab a mid morning or mid afternoon espresso, he suddenly claimed he was too busy to do so. It almost seemed as if he resented my presence there. I figured this was probably normal and didn’t worry about it too much but it was a bit difficult at times because I had been out of the loop for over 2 months and every time I asked him to bring me up to speed on where we were or let me take some of the workload I was rebuffed or thrown a bone that was supposed to pacify me. We did still maintain a good rapport though and it was obvious that he was just a little overworked and stressed about having to leave his family for another year deployment.

It also became obvious to me rather quickly that Barrett had turned himself into LTC Fanning’s right hand man. LTC Fanning loved him and gave him a lot of leeway to run “his” shop because he kept the heat off Fanning. The way the shop was to function was that Barrett and a Captain would spend the deployment at Ft. McPherson in Atlanta as the liaisons to the Central Command’s Army headquarters. Meanwhile I was to deploy to Afghanistan and run our shop from there. However, something very strange happened. A few weeks before we were supposed to leave, LTC Fanning informed me that had decided not to bring me to Afghanistan. This was strange because the reason why my position was created and why I was hired at all was to deploy with them. So if I was not deploying, there was a good chance my position would be cut and I would not have a job. I never got an explanation of why he suddenly changed his mind but it just seemed strange to me because only a few weeks earlier, his first words to me upon learning I had been hired were “Awesome, you’re deploying with us, right?”. By the grace of God, the contract officer decided not to cut my position. Instead I was to remain in the rear, in Vicenza, and support the unit however I could from there. This was not an ideal situation for me and I would spend the next year fearing that I could lose my job at any moment because there wouldn’t be enough to keep me busy.

Barrett (who had since been promoted to Master Sergeant) departed sometime in January for Atlanta and I was left running the show temporarily until everyone else left. He had lightened up considerably in the couple weeks before leaving and things seemed almost like the old times, joking on the phone and such after he got to Atlanta. I had told him straight out that I was worried about my job and constantly reminded him to keep me in the loop with everything. Since I was not deploying, he would be doing most of the work from Atlanta, so I told him I was counting on him to help me out by sending as much stuff my way as possible. He reassured me that he would do just that.

Shortly after Barrett and the rest of the unit had left, we received a new NCO, Sergeant First Class Jerome Peterson (Not his real name). Like most NCO’s who came into my shop, he was a signal NCO and had absolutely no experience with the job. So I set about my usual task of training him as I did with everyone else over the past 5 years or so. I liked him right away, he was a sports nut like me and loved a good discussion so we had plenty to talk about and we got along really well. He was also a very religious man and was one of the most honest people I’ve ever met. He was very easy to work with. Unfortunately there was not a lot for us to do in the rear.

Weeks and then months had gone by and I was not receiving anything from Barrett for some reason except for jokes and/or updates about mutual acquaintances. Every so often I would remind him that, for my job’s sake, I needed to be included in things as much as possible. He would say yeah, don’t worry, there just isn’t anything to send. Something didn’t seem quite right but he and I were such good friends that the thought that he might be purposely withholding stuff from me never entered my mind. Then one day, Peterson asked me to explain something to him. I looked at it and it was an email from Barrett discussing some aspect of the deployment. I thought it was kind of strange that Barrett had sent it to him and not me. Then he showed me his inbox and there were dozens and dozens of emails that Barrett had sent him or cc’d him on. It made no sense to me. Why would Barrett send that stuff to Peterson, who he had never met and who still didn’t know anything about the job and totally ignore me? I put it in the back of my mind because there really wasn’t much I could do about it. Besides, the deployment was about half over by that time and I still had a job so I was happy. Still nervous…but happy nonetheless.

A couple weeks later, at the end of the day, Peterson says good night and walks out the door, then reappeared a few minutes later. It was just he and I in there and he says he needs to talk to me. I said what’s up and he says “Look man, I really didn’t want to get involved in this and I wasn’t planning on saying anything but I can’t keep quiet anymore. This just isn’t right and I feel bad about this and I feel like I should at least warn you”. My reaction was something like “Huh?”. He then proceeded to inform me that Barrett had devised a grand scheme to get rid of me and was trying to enlist his help. He talked about how he never wanted me there as a civilian because he didn’t think they needed me and described in great detail his vision of the section after they redeployed – him and Peterson running things and no civilian. Apparently he had been working to try and get rid of me since the day they hired me. It became painfully obvious to me that Barrett was the one who had convinced Fanning not to deploy me, figuring they would cut my position on the spot (which they very nearly did). It was very hard for me to accept that someone who I thought was a good friend was actually scheming behind my back to get me fired. If we weren’t such good friends I probably might have seen it coming but I was just floored. It was literally like a punch in the stomach. I’d never felt so betrayed. I felt kind of like William Wallace when he ripped the helmet off the King’s guard and discovered it was Sir Robert the Bruce. I still had a hard time believing anyone was capable of such a thing but Peterson showed me emails from Barrett that backed up everything he said. It was true, every word of it.

It was instantly the worst thing anyone had ever done to me in my life and I had a hard time dealing with it. I started ruminating over everything Barrett had done since I’d known him. It all made sense now. He worked so feverishly to help me get out because he wanted control of the shop. He was pushing me to the job in Germany because he knew he could never be “the guy” as long as I was around. It was why he would not allow me into the building when I was on terminal leave, he had to keep me out of the loop as much as possible. It was why he had managed to get so much control over LTC Fanning before I came on board.

Barrett and I had had several conversations over the months about his future. He would go into great detail about how he was dropping his retirement paperwork after the deployment and how he was going back to Tennessee. He even told me several times that he had passed the state trooper test back home and was planning on becoming a state trooper. He described how he was sick of Europe and wanted to go back to the US. And yet, his plan all along was to get rid of me and take my job, plain and simple. And he never let on. If it weren’t for Peterson, I never would have known. I told Peterson he was a good man for at least warning me. He reiterated that he really didn’t want to get involved but, as he put it, “you’re a good man with a beautiful family and what he’s trying to do to you just ain't right”. I had no idea how I was going to handle the situation but I reassured Peterson that I would keep him out of it and that I would not tell Barrett that he has said anything to me.

1 comment:

eric said...

This is a great story, and I'm waiting on pins and needles for part 5. Don't wait until Monday!