Humor Non-Fiction posted March 2, 2021

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Ask A Silly Question

by Earl Corp

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

I was a fairly new buck sergeant when I was transferred to Hawaii. I soon discovered once you made NCO it was like seeing who was behind the curtain in the Wizard of OZ.

My platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant O’Grady, was a real gem. He had made a career of brown-nosing and moving up and doing everything possible to make himself look good.

He hadn’t served in a line infantry unit since he was a private. He’d been selected to be a colonel’s driver which he remained until he made E-4. He then submitted a packet to be a drill sergeant at the Retraining Brigade at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The Retraining Brigade was a program set up for non-violent prisoners from the Army jail. After they finished their sentences they were offered the opportunity to rejoin the Army and finish the balance of their enlistment contracts and receive an honorable discharge.

O’Grady extended for a third year on drill sergeant duty so he could have his choice of assignments. He chose three years as a ROTC instructor at Kansas State University. When he left ROTC he was sent to Hawaii as an infantry platoon sergeant, mine.

Bear in mind the progression to be an infantry platoon sergeant usually requires a soldier to serve as a rifleman, team leader, and then squad leader. O’Grady skipped over all those steps.

Two of the attributes you learn in the NCO academy are  tact and candor.
Tact is adroitness and sensitivity in dealing with others or with difficult issues. O’Grady had a sign on his desk that said, “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to Hell in such a manner they actually look forward to the trip.”

Candor on the other hand is straightforward honesty or frankness in speech or expression.

I much preferred candor to tact. The only thing is what I called candor the rest of the Army called lack of tact.

Here’s an example.

One morning during guard and detail month we were having a platoon meeting prior to PT. Guard and detail month is just what it sounds like, for the entire month that’s all you’re doing guard duty or menial details, like division police call.

Our platoon was short of bodies and we were tasked with guard and base police call and we didn’t have enough people to do both. O’Grady came up with a plan that guys who were on the off shift from guard duty would go pull police call then report back to guard duty.

“Why don’t we tell the first sergeant that we can’t cover police call and assign it to another platoon?” I asked.

O’Grady got this real serious look on his face and then answered me.

“Sgt. Corp if I go to the first sergeant and tell him we can’t cover all our details he won’t give us anymore details.”

That would be the goal,” I thought as I shot him a look. Honest to God he said that, like details were a reward.

“Why do you do that?”


“Give me that funny look every time I say something.”

Here is where candor kicked in.

“Because the most unbelievable bullshit I ever heard in my life comes out of your mouth,” was my honest answer.

O’Grady looked like I hit him, it didn’t help the other squad leaders laughed when I said it.

I was reassigned to headquarters platoon as an anti-armor team leader at the 9 a.m. formation.

Candor 1, Tact 0


Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry



NCO= Non Commissioned Officer
PT= Physical Training
Army enlisted ranks are broken into pay grades E-1 to E-9, with E-1 being a private.
Buck Sergeant=E-5
Police Call = picking up trash
This really happened. My flirtation with tact and candor lasted long after my military career, but those are stories for another time.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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