Saturday, February 07, 2009

"What Comes Around...": A True Story (Part 5)

[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 next day I called my project manager in Afghanistan and explained the situation to him and asked his advice on what I should do. He said not to worry, that I didn’t work for Barrett, I worked for LTC Fanning. I tried to explain that it didn’t matter because Barrett totally had Fanning like a puppet on a string and that he had managed to set it up so that if you worked for Fanning…you pretty much worked for Barrett. I did exactly what he told me to do, which was email Barrett and cc LTC Fanning. I was very cordial and did not let on that I knew about his master plan. I simply said something like “Tom, I noticed that you’ve sent some stuff to SFC Peterson and forgot to cc me on it. In the future, please be sure to cc me on all traffic as soon we’ll be planning redeployment and I need to be in the loop on everything”. Well, Barrett must have sensed what I was doing because he did not like it one bit. He blasted a reply on which he cc’d Fanning and several other people in the chain in which he angrily demanded to know everything that I had done so far during the deployment and that he wanted to see copies of all the products I had produced and what I was working on, etc. It was a genius move. He knew that isolating me in the rear would give me little chance to be involved and so demanding to know everything that I was working on would be like exposing to the world that I was just an overpaid contractor who wasn’t doing all the things I was hired to do. The irony was that he had schemed successfully from day one to put me in that position. I knew that if I pushed it, I would probably lose and probably have my position cut so I dropped the matter and never replied. In fact, Barrett and I had no further communication the rest of the deployment. I tried to get stuff through Fanning but Fanning sent everything through Barrett so I was screwed. Given what I had already learned, I was sure that Barrett had already convinced Fanning that I was worthless and not needed.

The months that followed were probably the most stressful of my life. I woke up every morning worried that that was the day my contract would be cut. I had a wife and small child at home and had no idea what I would do if that happened. It was a terrifying thought and it gripped me day and night. I started eating and drinking more and more out of stress and my weight rapidly ballooned to unforeseen proportions. I was constantly stressed and on edge and often took it out on the wife which made things worse. I had to sit each day and watch as someone who had pretended to be my friend systematically ruined my life and there was nothing I could do about it.

I did get a slight reprieve. A few months before the deployment ended, the contracting officer approached me and said he’d heard that an NCO was giving me trouble and trying to get me fired. He told me I had nothing to worry about, that they were happy with me and had no problems with my performance. I was a bit relieved but then in the same breath he also leveled with me and told me that the contract would almost certainly be cut when the unit redeployed. I said I understood and he asked me if I would be interested in staying as a Department of the Army civilian. I told him I definitely would be and he said he was trying to get my position converted to a DAC billet. Though I was happy about the new development, I was certain that as soon as Barrett found out about the DAC billet, he would do everything in his power to ensure that I would not get it.

In the end, I did not get selected for the DAC billet. In fact I ended up a distant third on the list for the very job that I had done for the past 6 years. Although I will probably never know exactly how much Barrett had to do with it, I did find out later on that he had filed and sent out several after action reviews in which he totally destroyed “the civilian” and went into great detail about how worthless “the civilian” was during the deployment and about how “the civilian” was a waste of money, etc. Losing out on my own job was an unbelievably humbling experience for me. For a long time afterward I questioned whether I was even in the right line of work. I was set to take another contract position in Hawaii for minuscule pay because it was the only offer I had when at the last minute a DAC position was offered to me working in Army Europe HQ in Heidelberg, Germany, the same place I had turned down the GS9 position a year and a half earlier. This position was a GS11 so I eagerly took it as it was in Europe and I could still come to Italy once or twice a year on vacation at least. As it turned out, the opportunity was a Godsend for me. While I had been passed over for my job in Italy, now I was working at a much higher level. It was like going from the minor leagues to the major leagues. And you know what? I excelled at it. I was learning new stuff, I was doing ten times the work I had done in Italy and I was making even more contacts in high places. That job went a long way towards restoring my confidence in my abilities. I kept in touch with Peterson and the individual who had ended up taking my position (we sort of knew each other already) and not surprisingly, they too ended up falling victim to Barrett’s schemes. The stories they told me about him sounded very similar to what I had lived through the previous year and a half. Eventually Barrett came down on orders for Ft Bragg but was able to finagle his way into an active guard slot somewhere in Iowa. He has since retired and is working as a GS9 the last I heard.

After 6 years in Italy, I had apparently made a name for myself. Everybody was quite surprised that I had not gotten the DAC position in Italy. One day, the LTC that I was working for at in Heidelberg was working late and it was just he and I so he asked me, what the hell happened in Italy that cost me the job? I told him I really didn’t know but I had my suspicions. I then told him the story about Barrett and what he had done to me and he said he has met NCO’s like that in his many years in the Army and they never surprise him. With the job in Italy, we were constantly doing business with Army Europe HQ in Heidelberg as they were our higher headquarters. A few of the guys who had worked with Barrett were quite shocked when I told them of Barrett’s actions as they all thought he was a smart, squared away NCO. That’s what always made things so hard to take – Barrett WAS extremely smart and he WAS a squared away NCO. Just made it harder to fathom how he could do something so underhanded and dirty.

I settled in and adjusted to my new position rather nicely. Although I missed Italy tremendously, I did enjoy working in Heidelberg. The guy who had taken my job in Italy ended up having so much trouble at it that after a year he requested to be released so he could go back to his old job in the US. I was hoping to get back down there but alas, the Colonel that I was working for at Army Europe HQ did not want me to leave and secretly convinced the new leadership in Italy not to fill the position (something I will never forgive him for). Looking back, I guess they were really happy with me and my performance which felt really good after the Barrett debacle. I even turned myself into somewhat of a go-to guy. After about a year and a half, my immediate supervisor left for a job in the US. I was asked by the leadership if I would be interested in the job and it was a GS12 position so I said yes. Unfortunately, the position ended up being posted as a temporary position so I didn’t even bother applying as my current position was permanent. A month or two later my big boss asked me to look over the list of people who had the referral list for the open position and see if I knew anyone. I scanned the list and there it was at the top of the second page: THOMAS BARRETT. It was like reliving the nightmare all over again. I went back to my boss, showed him the name and told him that if they ended up hiring this guy, I would quit on the spot. He asked why and I gave him a brief description of the history between us, after which he wholehearted agreed that this guy was not someone they wanted working there. The other hiring official was the LTC that I worked for so I asked to speak to him privately. I showed him the list and told him that “Thomas Barrett” was the NCO who I had told him about that night we were working late. He shook his head and said don’t worry, I was not the only person who he had heard negative things about Barrett from and there was no way they would hire him in light of this fact.

The funny thing is, out of a list of about 20 people, Barrett was far and away the most qualified candidate. Nobody else on there had anywhere near his experience and under normal circumstances, I would have recommended him in a heartbeat. In the end, someone else got the GS12 position and is, to this day, firmly ensconced in the position which is apparently about to become permanent. It could have been Barrett’s but for all of his scheming, manipulating and dirty tricks. In the end it probably won’t matter as I’m sure he’ll probably end up with a better job if he hasn’t already. But for that one brief moment, I got my little slice of revenge, even if it pales in comparison to what he did to me.

Sometimes you do indeed reap what you sow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great read Rik. I wish you would continue with your book as well. See you this week???