Brown Hat, Hurrah!


We finally had our red-hat reviews. A week late—better late than never.

I did about as well as I thought I would. No formal discipline. No major issues in Physical Training, Chemical Dependency, or Military Bearing. I will get my brown hat tonight.

What does that mean? Well, all of us that passed (14 out of 17) will have a higher level of responsibility.

We will be lifting weights now twice a week. And we have to do 30 pushups when we are informally disciplined. It’s time to really step it up. I will.

The three members of our squad that didn’t make it will have a chance in a week to get their brown hats. They accumulated too much discipline over a short amount of time. My prediction: one of them will be held back a month. He hasn’t lost his attitude. But…it’s not my job to worry about him. I can only control myself.

We got a new squad in our barracks. There are 12 squads, four in each of the three barracks. Two squads leave and arrive each month. Anyhow, it’s amazing to see the new guys and see how far we’ve come in 2½ months. They are a mess. They have a constant look of fear about them and are totally disorganized. I can’t believe we were like that, but all new squads are.

Yesterday I worked KP for the first time. It was nice to be back in a kitchen setting, however I was quite disappointed with the overall operation.

First, for what their labor cost is, it should have been the cleanest place in the world. But I saw obvious signs of neglect. After breakfast, lunch, and dinner service, I spent my time cleaning nooks and crannies using only a large towel. There are no useful cleaning tools (like steel wool or green scrubbers). And we aren’t allowed to spray cleaning chemicals, only pour them on towels.

The worst parts were two equally horrible things:

  1. I have never seen so much useful food thrown away in my life. Hundreds of pounds of cooked, edible food, tossed in a garbage can. They only let the offenders eat a certain amount of food. It’s plenty, but I don’t see a reason to not let us get seconds on things like broccoli, bread, or salad. Or how about doing something cliché like somehow getting the extras to homeless shelters? I dunno. Things like that get to me. What a waste.
  1. The kitchen staff (not state employees) use the power they have to degrade and belittle the offenders. Unfortunately I can’t write more on that, but I will when I am a free man.

[ANNE: I kind of feel like one of the old geezers on Sesame Street, commenting from the peanut gallery on Vince’s posts. But since we only get 13 minutes to talk on the phone every two weeks, we don’t waste time clarifying the finer points of the blog. So. I don’t get why he was so looking forward to getting his brown hat. It sounds like it just makes life more demanding—I mean, 30 pushups? I can barely do three.

I think this goes to show that many of us thrive when more is asked of us. I see this at work with volunteers. The ones whose supervisors “don’t want to overwhelm them” by giving them too much work usually don’t stick around. The ones who we pile work on, rise to it and usually do even more than we asked of them.

I always thought Vince’s problem was that he couldn’t handle stress; that was why he lived in the boon docks, didn’t own a car, never aspired to become a chef rather than a cook. But maybe I had it wrong. He seems to be thriving under high expectations. It’ll be interesting to see how he manages when he’s outside, with just the minimal expectations that he not use chemicals and not break the law.]

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