For eight years, I proudly served in the National Guard, the oldest branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
In December, I submitted my paperwork to transition from the Alabama National Guard to the US Army Reserves by way of the Individual Ready Reserves (IRR). Anyone who has ever dealt with the military, or the government in general, knows that paperwork moves like pond water and pond water doesn’t move. I stole that line from one of my old drill sergeants. I’m sure he stole it from someone else. Anyway, it took a while but finally came to fruition this week. I couldn’t be happier.
For the most part, I really did enjoy my time in the National Guard. I had the honor of serving with some outstanding Soldiers. I also served with and for some outstanding leaders who I’d follow anywhere. On the other hand, there are those I wouldn’t even follow to the bathroom.
I served many years in the Regular Army (yes, that’s what it’s called) but left to join the National Guard in 2006. I was a First Lieutenant (1LT), but prior to leaving the Army, I’d received orders for promotion to Captain; however, my service obligation was fulfilled before I actually received the promotion.
According to the National Guard recruiter for officers, the promotion was still in effect. I’d be promoted to Captain as soon as I got to my new unit.
I inquired about the promotion upon arrival at my unit. We were preparing for Annual Training so there was a lot going on. It was not a priority. When we finally put together my promotion packet, we were told that an official Department of the Army (DA) photo was not necessary. The packet was sent to Montgomery but was returned a few weeks later because the official DA photo was indeed required. I squared away my dress uniform and scheduled a time for the photo to be made at Ft. McClellan. The packet was then resubmitted.
It sat on a desk in Montgomery for several months. I was becoming very frustrated. By now, I had been involuntarily cross-leveled to another unit that was scheduled to deploy to Iraq in the summer of 2007.
We finally heard back from the folks in Montgomery. My packet was denied because my physical, which was up to date with many months to spare when the packet was originally submitted, had expired. I had to schedule a physical at Ft. Benning. That took another few weeks. I was in good shape, but my morale was suffering.
We were conducting our pre-deployment training at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin, when I learned that my unit’s headquarters in Iraq would be right next to my unit from the Regular Army. Of all the places in Iraq, I was a stone’s throw from my old unit with whom I’d deployed with years earlier.
That was great! I loved those guys and gals, but I didn’t want to show up there as 1LT Fuller. All of my peers from that unit had already been promoted to Captain. I didn’t want to feel inferior, and I surely didn’t want to have to explain my situation to everyone.
Just a couple of weeks before we departed Ft. McCoy, my boss, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Vickers stormed into the headquarters building and ordered us all into the big meeting room. He was hot!
He walked into the room and we all stood at attention waiting to hear his wrath.
“Lieutenant Fuller, post!” he said.
I was finally promoted to Captain. It only took 18 months.
For the record, I would follow (now) Colonel Vickers anywhere.
Although my service in the National Guard started off rocky, overall, it was a wonderful experience. I served with and for a lot of good people and am proud to have served the great people of Alabama.
I now hold the rank of Major and am excited to see what my future holds as I begin this new and most likely final chapter of my military service.
Life can be challenging. Life can be frustrating. Some things are simply out of our hands. We just have to hang in there and keep doing the right thing. Eventually, good things will happen.
Be that as it may, if I ever see that recruiter again, I’m going to give him a noogie.