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Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills

They’ve often claimed that Economics is the dreariest science, but for men in uniform you’d have to go some to match the drudgery of pouring over miles and miles of pages and pages of personnel files and the rules and regs that define them.

In the Army of the 60s-and 70s, before reorganization, it was called G-1, then DCSPER (Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel) and that was where they kept the records of every trooper. His 201-file, which he carried when he changed stations, and was flagged (frozen) if he got in trouble was kept there.

I usually got involved if a file was flagged, for I was the first person a troop would come see.

In an ordinary command, there would not be very many flags in a given week. The rest of the time it was drudgery, sort of like having to read the maintenance manual of a Ford pick-up…every day…or worse, listening to Barry Manilow on a never-ending loop.

What kind of person wants to do this job? Well, it seems the old Army knew that there were some out there who could open up a 201-file, or the limitless AR-635 regs, and it would be like reading the original sheet music by Beethoven. Or Chuck Berry.

The Army wanted at least one person in every personnel office like that.

When I was in Japan, I had a good friend, an MD. A few months before he was due to leave the Army he was accepted to Harvard Med School to study a specialty. But he had to report to the school a month before he was scheduled to leave Japan. He had made every early-out request he could through channels, and the personnel office always rejected it. “Regs”, they said. There was no provision that allowed them to do, although they were sympathetic to CPT Tseng. So I called our 3-star’s aide-de-camp, an LTC and another good friend, and Sam spoke to the General, who didn’t call the Chief of Personnel, but rather an E-7 in the G-1’s office, who was the command’s fixer. And in two weeks, Victor and Irene were winging their way to Boston, where he went onto become a nationally prominent limb-attachment surgeon[…]

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