Resume Fodder & Resume Reality

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It has been my experience over the years that one’s resume is often no more than a list of jobs that one has endured year to date, mine included. Resumes do a decent job of painting a picture without any real details. The proof is in the pudding, it rears it’s ugly head when a person is put to task, when one is asked to prove their knowledge of the process, and to be able to work alone, unattended by a trainer or supervisor. We all know that after all the streamlined bullet points that most of our resume is just sugar coated bullshit. I said most people. Now you’re asking, but where are you going with all of this? Fair enough of a question, I actually have someplace I’m taking y’all. I’m taking y’all to work, my work specifically, where one of my tasks is to train new employees in our department how we do things, our culture, and how to do everything we do in the safest manner possible.

This act of training is very natural for me, it has always been easy for me to teach, from people who don’t have a clue to those who come with a little or allot of experience. So, I have worked at the same place now for almost exactly two years, I have been sent to schools as well as trained by other mechanics. As a mechanic we have a daunting task, we are responsible for the maintenance and repairs on a very broad spectrum, from building (facilities) maintenance to equipment maintenance, and everything little thing in between. I’m forbidden from mentioning the company I work for, but to give your imagination a run for its money, here are a few facts.

It all started in 1962 as a small grocery store in small town by a man with an unfilled vision, and is today the biggest retail chain in the world. From hitting the $1 billion mark for the first time in 1979, it generated more than 482 billion dollars in revenue in 2016. This is more than the total revenue of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Facebook combined! Just so you know, these are the top five most valuable brands in the world. Quite remarkable! In fact, this store brand has more revenue than the total GDP of countries like Poland, Belgium, Thailand, UAE, South Africa, Singapore, Portugal, Qatar, New Zealand, Croatia, Iceland, and Mauritius. Speaking of countries, if this store was a country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world. A country with only the stores employees alone would also be more populated than 88 countries in the world. Want more?

Wait, did someone mention employees? Well, this store has many, many of them. With more employees than McDonald’s (1.9 million), it is the biggest private employer in the world. In fact, only two organizations have more employees than this store, the US Army and the Chinese Army. You know you are big when you are competing neck and neck with the biggest armies in the world. Which is why it should be no surprise to see that it employs more people than HP, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Motors, Starbucks, Ford, Walt Disney, Amazon, Costco, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook AND American Airlines COMBINED. Phew! All of these companies: ~2,199,000 employees. This store: ~2,300,000 employees.

You might be wondering how is all of this even possible. Well, the answer lies in the fact that Americans spend more than 36 million dollars every single hour at this store. That’s 864 million dollars in just one day. Additionally, more than 200 million customers shop every single week in its various stores. In other words, more people shop at this store every week than the entire population of Germany, United Kingdom, and France combined. Of course, this means that it makes some serious profits. How much, you might ask? No less than $21,000 every single minute. This store can literally buy 30 iPhone 6S every minute, burn them and still be in profit. Most of y’all have probably figured it out by now who I work for, but I’m still not saying. However, I don’t actually work in a store, I work in the logistics part, not the retail part. I work in one of thousands of the distribution warehouses that receive and distribute groceries to only a handful, 70 or so stores, in the logistical web of stores seen world wide. Many of the details I listed above were in our latest issue of our monthly magazine. I can’t actually give them full on credit without giving away the name of the company.

Ok, now back to my role. Fortunately for me, I learned my department and it’s role very fast. Fortunately for me, I came into this mechanic’s position bringing years of mechanical experience and knowledge, the results of not having a resume full of fluff, fodder, or bullshit. And if the truth must be told, being a jack of most trades has served me well here because there are many days I have to dip into my resources of experiences to solve problems. But wait, there’s more. It was all a trap, almost like being given a lengthy rope to see if I could hang myself. Actually, becoming the trainer did come with extra money hourly and a little prestige since I’m not just another drone mechanic, I actually have a purpose and people depend on me to do my job to a higher standard. Plus, I really do like and appreciate all the daily challenges. Plus, training keeps my own skills sharp and many times I learn a little more. I never know who I will train or what their personal skillset actually contains. I’m not part of the interview process, but my words speak loudly when I have to do the person’s training review close to the end of a person’s initial 90 day period. Fortunately for me, my words, in a company this size, have merit and do determine if a person will continue in the new career he or she has chosen. A fortunate aspect of who I am and how my personality works is that I can spot bullshit a mile away and read a person in a way that interpretation is not necessarily needed. Luckily for me, the human brain has done most of the work for me because one is either mechanically inclined or one is not mechanically inclined. There is no in between and there is no fudging any of that. Remember, I NEVER see the resume that was used nor was I part of the interview process which got a person hired, I get the person cold. I suppose one could say it’s like a blind date, if it goes well for him or her, we get to move forward.

I will discuss, briefly, the latest candidate, and then let y’all get back to your lives. Sam is 32, the mother of 3 girls, recently divorced, muscle car enthusiast, and out in the workforce for the very first time ever in her life. She came in the shop this past weekend looking like an 80’s Guess Jeans poster girl and my first impression was that I’m screwed, not getting screwed by her, but the girly girly smells real nice types don’t usually like to get grease under their nails. My initial impressions were squashed real fast and I must admit I was more than a little shocked. Task one with Sam was to identify why a fully automatic shrink wrap machine was inoperable. I noticed when we arrived at the machine that it had stopped abruptly in a strange position, generally meaning something broke or seized. By the time I mentioned we need to get out the 16 foot ladder (weighing in at 135 lbs, in my opinion weighing more than her by 15 to 20 lbs) she already had it set up and was climbing to the top. She proceeded to request I hand her a flashlight, a 9/16″ open end wrench, and the 6″ crescent wrench. I’m, okay Sam. After a few minutes of silence except for a little grunting, she explained she had identified the problem, the shaft from the main drive motor which drives the rotation gearbox has either has broken into three pieces. I was also informed that we need to go back to the shop for additional tools and the parts to complete the repair. Due diligence states I have to do my own assessment and inspection, which by the look on her face, was insulting. Not my intention, just protocol.

Needless to say, I merely had to show her access procedures, where to find stuff, how to use our hand held computer, and that it was time for break. By the end of our three day weekend (42 hours) I found myself to not only be amazed but also very respectful to the fact that no matter how the package is wrapped that there is always a surprise inside. We did have time to talk, she explained she’s from a family with 8 boys and she was the baby. She had gotten pregnant in high school and married shortly after graduation to the father. She ended her dream of going to college to become a better mechanic because she liked being a wife and mother. Her ex and her were into restoring and building hot rods, an expensive hobby which is one reason they divorced, the other reason was in an argument about money (which she was not earning) that resulted in him punching her in the mouth in front of their 3 children. In her eyes they were now done.

Anyway, after getting to know Sam I realized she was going to make our team better, and even though there is 11 more weeks of training, I don’t see any problems. Wait, unless of course she doesn’t like the cold, because then she’s screwed because we spend allot of time in the -30 degree freezers. But we will find out that next weekend.

The Places My Combat Boots Have Seen

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A natural choice of footwear for me is my last remaining pair of Air Force issued combat boots. I have had many pair of combat boots over the years, starting back in 1988. I don’t remember them all, but there are a few that stand out in my mind because of what I was doing when I was wearing them. Currently I have only one pair left out of my collection as I have had to retire so many before it. My very first pair of issued combat boots were in United States Air Force BMT (Basic Military Training). I recall the thoughts of how uncomfortable they felt on my feet since I was in the habits of wearing my cowboy boots which were worn, haggered, stunk like shit, but were the most comfortable boots (shoes) I have ever worn. My new pair of boots were rigid, stiff, and lace up. I can’t remember how to tie my boot at first, I had to watch other new airmen as they laced and tied their boots, as I haven’t had to tie a shoe in a long time, in fact I couldn’t really remember a specific time when I tied a shoe last. I was at a loss. I was going to get kicked out on my first day because I couldn’t tie a shoe, I guess that is what I get for wearing boots for as long as I could remember. I went from owning 2 pair of shoes, cowboy boots & flip flops, to a single pair of combat boots. I better learn fast I thought, I better learn fast. I knew I was excited, this was my first day as a soldier.

After successfully completing BMT and Technical school in Denver Colorado it was noticed that my boots did not fair so well, it was time to get a new pair. Of course, I was told to wait until I got to my first base, Misawa AB Japan, where I was told I would be issued another pair as part of my in-processing. When I got to Japan I was impressed, they don’t mess around when it comes to boots, I was issued 4 pair, two summer weight and two winter weight (insulated) pair, also, I was issued my first pair of mukluks since it was winter in full force in Japan just days after Christmas. Everyone knows that if your feet are cold, your whole body is cold. I wish I would have known that before I got to Japan. How in the hell am I supposed to know how to deal with snow, I’m from Houston in southeast Texas. In late 1990 I was given orders to go to Turkey in support of what will become to be known world-wide as Desert Storm. Time to let go of the snow and the black combat boots, it was time to get introduced to desert styles. The military has a boot to fit most functions, most terrains, and most weather. This was a long 6 months for me, it was the first time I had to remind myself to do the right thing whether anyone is looking or not. I watched people lose focus, make mistakes, and basically ruin their career, I didn’t want to be that guy. I was also involved in the Liberation of Kuwait where I got to see for the very first time in person, up close and personal, the destruction that was causes. Most people think war is a physical element of destruction because we can see physical damages. I saw things beyond that, I walked over the remains of what appeared to be a family caught by surprise as a bomb that was dropped exploded just outside their house. Walking across them was an accident and when I realized what it was I had stepped on I was a bit shocked, it hurt me to see them. Our team leader explained to me that they were not “my” problem and we must move on since we were in the process of locating an area to set up shop. After that day I never wore those boots again.

Soon enough I returned to Japan to finish out the remainder of my tour. After a few years I left Japan and headed to Iceland. Unfortunately I was only in Iceland a matter of a few weeks as I was diverted to be stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. I already had some experience living in the desert so the transition to a zero humidity environment wasn’t that hard on my system.  From New Mexico I would truly see the world beyond what I knew. I visited many places for many reasons doing my assigned job. Leaving became easier over the years, it was the coming home that was hard to do. In mid summer 1995 I was sent to Osan AB Korea to assist in the inspection of some specific munitions components which had been in long term storage. It was time to determine if they were still serviceable and if so prep them for shipment to a variety of bases world-wide. 18 months later I rotated back to the world to be reunited with my family in New Mexico. Things were not good at home, but that is another story, in fact I think I have written about it here once or twice.

In late 1998 I was in Las Vegas Nevada for the 3rd or 4th time for training and I was given orders to go an undisclosed area for the initial drive of what will become known as Operation Desert Fox. My views had really changed about the United States’ role in the world and it really impacted how I performed, I turned off the emotion, I turned off the feelings, and I just did my job. This would be the first deployment I did not get issued fresh boots, probably because of the timeline, who knows. However, when I got back there was a shiny new pair waiting for me. Well, they weren’t shiny yet, but they would be in no time. Eventhough I had a grunt job, I worked in and out of warehouses, a variety of shops, drove a variety of equipment, and walked everywhere as well, two things were always important, a persons attitude and a persons appearance. The first thing a person notices, unfortunately, is a dirty pair of boots, we always were cleaning our boots, making sure they were taken care of and shined with a reflection that rivaled most mirrors. I eventually left the Air Force, I was medically retired due to previous injuries which happened while active duty. I had no idea what being label a disabled veteran meant. I had no idea how I was going to function in the outside world. I was divorced by this time, a single parent to my daughter who didn’t know what civilian life was all about and I had all but forgot. Luckily my dad was there to catch me, offered me and my daughter a place to call home, and gave me a job working with him in his concrete contractor business. Not knowing any better, on my first day of work, I laced up a pair of my steel toed combat boots. Eventually I traded them in for a pair of work boots, finally no laces!

I always fall back to the combat boot as a boot to wear when I know my feet will be in an unruly environment. After the Air Force, my combat boots continued to see service protecting my feet from the elements and my daily life. I have one pair that has been bitten by two different snakes and has seen more blood of animals killed in the hunt than most shoes should ever have to endure. These boots are my “go to” boots. Over this past weekend I was getting dressed to go weed-eat the perimeter of my fence-line. When overgrown like was, it is a fairly dangerous place for feet because one doesn’t know what is in the tall grass. As I laced up my boots Sunday morning I found myself remembering what I wrote about here today. Interesting how a single pair of boots can trigger memories both good and bad. I wore them without incident, I don’t bother cleaning them anymore, I just knock off the big clumps, and then hang them back on the hook, ready for the next time they will serve me well.

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Welcome To The Land Of Enchantment

This will be installment number two of where I was stationed, how being in the AMMO careerfield influenced my drinking habits, and different places I traveled while still being stationed at Holloman AFB in New Mexico. If necessary, you might need to read Land Of The Rising Sun to get caught up to where I left off. Originally when I was given relocation orders at Misawa AB Japan I was heading to Keflavik Iceland for two years on an accompanied tour. That went south and I was diverted to being stationed at Holloman AFB New Mexico to fill in for a shortage of Munitions Inspectors that they were experiencing. But, I failed to get orders for this tour until after all my belongings were shipped to Iceland and I was in Iceland for three days. But, I am getting ahead of myself completely here so I need to back track just a bit. Let me take you back to my final days in Japan before I actually departed. Just a few days before we were scheduled to leave, neighbors and friends of my wife and I were thrown a party. It was a family oriented party held outside in two feet of snow. It had to be outside because that is where we were cooking. There was a fair amount of drinking being done by everyone that cold December afternoon. The kids were all playing in the snow and having a good time as well. After dark it got very cold and started snowing again so we all decided to clean up and call it an evening. We all said our goodbyes and farewells to many of the people since this would be the last time we saw them before we leave in a few days. However, this was only one send off. My personal send off from work was the following evening. My wife was well aware this was going to happen and was actually okay with the whole idea. The following evening I was picked up by friends since we had just sold our cars a few days ago to people who were just coming into Misawa and needed transportation. We did what is referred to as a pub crawl in the AMMO community. Meaning, that we started at one bar and then we hit them all as they were all in close proximity to one another. The entire “crawl” lasted for about six hours or so and some of us, including myself, were crawling by the time we arrived at the final bar. To say I was that drunk would be a mild understatement. I would say that I was pretty toasted to say the least. In fact, most of what I remember about the entire night is what was told to me when I was sober afterwords, plus some jackass decided it would be a good idea to take pictures with one of those disposable cameras and then decided to shove it in my pocket so I could develop it on a later date. Unfortunately, out of 36 pictures, only 3 were of me, all in a condition I don’t wish to share with anybody, ever. I didn’t get much sleep by the time I got back since our flight was leaving in two hours. I had enough time to shower, get dressed, get in the taxi, and head to the airport. Needless to say, the flight sucked because of rough weather which really played havoc on my developing hangover. I was awake 90% of the flight and knew it when we landed because I was 13 shades of green at the time.
 
After landing at Keflavik we went thru customs and eventually collected our bags. We then hailed a taxi to take us to the base so we could check into billeting (base hotel quarters). We were hungry so we called in an order of pizza and it was one mistake we only made once since it sucked pretty bad. That night my wife and I went out to explore, get something to eat, and pick up some toiletries we needed. All in all a good night, we even found this great bar! The following morning a messenger from the commander’s office was knocking on the door to inform me I had an appointment at 9am. It is there that I found out about my new orders and my new departure date to head to Holloman AFB. I went back to the room and told my wife not to get comfortable since we were leaving in four days to go there. She wasn’t overjoyed but was happy to go to the United Stated where she was closer to family. Meanwhile, we wanted to go explore locally and see what we could see. It was, however, an all expense paid mini vacation so we wanted to make the best of it. One of my favorite things to do is to try the local cuisine, from bar foods to actual restaurants, to see how the people of that land eat and drink. We found, very fast, that the actual restaurants were quite expensive and most required a more dressier dress code than what we had to offer. So, to a few bars we would go. We were able to sample some really great food, none of what I can remember the names of or pronounce. We did some drinking as well, we found that some of the bars were actually swingers bars, so those were fun. And, the rumors are true for what we saw in Iceland, everyone, with very few exceptions, was blonde and had blue eyes. We were the oddballs, we stood out like the tourists we were. The best drink I had was a Bacardi and Wild Turkey slushy served in a mug made from ice. It was real cool and it kept the slushy very cold. Our time soon ended and we were headed to the airport the leave this beautiful place. But, for me, and some time into the future, I will be returning so this isn’t the end of the story for Iceland. We boarded the plane and took off and after a few stops and layovers we landed in El Paso Texas. I had contacted my sponsor (also to become my new supervisor) that we were in town and we needed a ride. Around an hour later we were picked up and taken to billeting to get checked in. If memory serves me correct this was a Friday afternoon so we didn’t have anything to do until Monday rolled around. We were tired from our trip so we just said screw it and showered and then went to sleep. Sometime Saturday after noon sometime, my new supervisor came over to check in on us and see how we were doing. He mentioned that a few couples were going to meet up at a bar called Nickles right down the street from the base if we were interested. We were game. He left us to mill around a while and get dressed. He and his wife came over later to get us to take us out for our first “night on the town”. This place was interesting, a true mix of redneck meets hip hop meets metal type of place. A truly bizarre mixture of people were there. I found out real quick that I was no longer in the land of exotic drinks because this was a beer and shots kind of place which was quite a bore and very disappointing. This led to me asking some questions to the bartender. She liked me and recommended that I get my license to bartend at the local community collage because they need some new blood in this bar. So, we drank, we talked, we got the rundown on what Holloman had to offer and what it was all about. After a few hours of drinking, playing pool, playing darts, and many tequila shots, it was time to head on back to the base.
 
Soon enough it was Monday, time to get some in-processing done and get out to the bomb dump (munitions storage area) to get acquainted with my new job. Due to the luck of the draw I guess, I ended up in the Munitions Storage shop. There were a few very interesting characters working here to say the very least. It doesn’t take a great deal of time to find out who is all business and who is the work hard and party hard people. Of course, a few of the guys were going to be doing a little drinking and bowling at the recreations facility after work. So, I tagged along and found out this place didn’t have a whole hell of allot to offer besides working. What did I expect, this base is in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a desert. When I first got stationed at Holloman there wasn’t even a Walmart in town. The mall was dubbed “The Hall” because it was a Sears at one end and a 3 stall theatre at the other end with about 20 stores in between. It took about 30 seconds or less to go from one end to the other which made it a pretty sad excuse for a mall. Soon enough we got settled into base housing and began living our lives in the “Land of Enchantment”. I did successfully complete the bartender’s school to get my license. I did take a part time position at the bar out on the highway. After a few months I got TDY orders (temporary duty) to go to Nellis AFB outside Las Vegas Nevada to participate in a military exercise known as “Green Flag”. In actuality it was a school to teach us how to build bombs in a mass and rapid fashion to support the aircraft in a quicker manner during a time of deployment and/or conflict. There was allot more to it, but why do I need to bore you. As an adult this was the first time to visit Las Vegas so I was real excited to go. It didn’t take long to mix in with the locals and see that I was falling into their routine which was work, party, eat, work, and keep repeating. Sometimes, for a change of pace a few of us would go to a strip bar called Cheetahs to blow off a little steam. I found that I could drink for free pretty much all the time just by making simple bets with the people I was with and with the bartenders. I ended up with a part time job there bartending during peak hours. The money was good but I would have rather been partying with my friends who were getting drunk. I wasn’t into all the gambling or anything like that so I did allot of sight seeing when I could, went to school, worked part time some, and partied all the rest of the time. This place was more my “style” since there was so much trouble to get into there. Soon enough it was time to head back to Holloman AFB to get back into the routine there. After a couple more months I received orders to go to Osan AB in South Korea to assist another TDY group from some base in Alaska who would be doing inspections and maintenance on equipment that has been in long term storage. They had new equipment that they were also testing so it sounded like it was going to be a good time. Little did I know that after six months that these guys would get to go home and I would get extension orders to remain for 12 more months. I will not lie, I don’t remember much about the last 11 1/2 months I was at Osan, it remains a blur still to this day. I started drinking one evening and basically didn’t stop until I left. It all started with what is called a “Green Bean” since it was a party designed to introduce you to the AMMO drinking life in Korea. I was hooked. For me every night from that point on was a time to be so drunk I would not think about being across the world without my family. It was a lonely life there and it actually went pretty fast for me since I was always drunk. I met some good people there whom I remain in contact still today so many years later. If it weren’t for these great friends and an endless supply of alcohol I would have never made it out of there in one piece. Soon enough I go my orders to rotate back to the world and I was very happy to be leaving Korea.
 
Life hadn’t changed to much back at Holloman and it was easy to get back into the work and life routine there. We had nice weather all year long so we could grill out or smoke anytime we wanted to. Which was good, I always had a party to look forward to go to, even if it were at my own house. Then I got orders to go to Kuwait. I wasn’t real happy about that. I didn’t want to go to war again. I will make this as simple as possible for y’all since Kuwait sucked ass. The routine was work, eat, shower, sleep, and repeat every 12 hours every day for seven months. There was no drinking, there was no party, there was nothing. I saw things there that changed me inside for ever. But, I would think that seeing death up close and personal would change anyone. I was so damn glad to get the hell out of Kuwait. When I got back to Holloman I was in for a surprise, a big surprise. The night I returned I walked into my house to find that my wife had her boyfriend spending the night in my bed. I will spare you the details but just know I went to jail that night. It gave me some time to reflect on where my life had been going. When they saw fit I was released. But now I was beyond pissed, I was beyond wanting to be married, and I was beyond wanting to be in the Air Force. It is hard to make clear decisions when you are angry at the world. I spent the next few months sober struggling with my marriage and what direction I wanted it to go. I couldn’t forgive her, I couldn’t overlook the fact that she intentionally destroyed our marriage, and I didn’t want to be married any longer to her. I needed to get out of my house and away from her because every day that went by I found myself hating her more and more. I ended up at a friends house where we go stupid drunk. When I went home that next morning I started a fight with my wife on purpose because it was time to shit or get off the pot. We separated that afternoon and I never looked back. I ended up moving in with my good friend and his wife. During this time I had an end date for my marriage as well as an end date with my twisted marriage to the Air Force. Luckily for me my friend liked to drink almost as much as I did so it was easy to spend these last few months in New Mexico drunk as a skunk. There are many things I regret about being in the Air Force. I became one of those statistics that they write about to chart statistics since I was essentially an alcoholic, I ended my marriage in divorce, and I chose to leave because I didn’t want to be a part of the machine anymore. I found, soon enough, that there was indeed life after the Air Force, life for someone who was divorced, and brand new opportunities to do whatever I pleased once I moved back to Texas. My return to Texas is where I will pick up with the next installment of my story.