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Normal tracking - like this - would have made sense. But, no...

How I Saved My Unit From Death-by-Trackers

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On this particular day, I was feeling quite fed up with all the fucking trackers. I went on a rant. And then…

by Cliff Wade

Back in Garrison, 2015

The Army is big on trackers. They track unit’s training requirements, numerous administrative actions, leave dates, fire extinguisher expiration dates, duty exemptions, vehicle service dates (both scheduled and unscheduled), upcoming taskings, already completed taskings, personnel in possession of certain skills or certifications, school dates for individuals to earn those certain skills or certifications, evaluation dates, phone numbers, work orders; you name it, units across the Army track it on an Excel spreadsheet somewhere.

Sometimes, trackers are even used to track other trackers. It gets silly. It becomes ridiculous. And for the leaders responsible for their soldiers completing the tasks being tracked, and then updating those trackers, it can be rather stressful. 

READ MORE from Cliff Wade: The Mother; A Soldier’s Haunting Encounter in Iraq

One day, I was filling out a command climate survey. This is an online tool that unit commanders at different echelons utilize for personnel to anonymously provide feedback as to how they feel about the way things are run in their organizations. The only piece of identifiable information you must put on the survey is your rank. It’s a great way for soldiers to vent their frustrations without fear of reprisal (of course, the higher in rank you go, the easier they can narrow down just who said what if they were so inclined).

Not the author. But you get the idea.

These surveys can get pretty spicy sometimes. This survey was for my battalion, and I was serving in a platoon sergeant role at the time. On this particular day, I was feeling quite fed up with all the fucking trackers. I went on a rant. 

Q: What can we do to improve our organization’s daily operations?

A: Trackers. What the fuck? There is quite literally a master tracker to track other trackers. What in the actual fuck??? There are trackers for every little thing that we need to constantly fucking update that most of my time is dedicated to keeping a fucking tracker ‘green’ so some officer can brief some other officer showing them how great their unit is doing. It’s gone too far! There are so many fucking trackers that I want to blow my fucking brains out!

My comments probably wouldn’t have caused a stir had I left off that last sentence. But, as it were, and, I’d imagine, still is, suicide is a terribly sensitive topic in the Army. It only took a few minutes after I hit the submit button before I completely forgot about that survey and went back to filling out some fucking tracker.

A couple hours later we got word that all staff sergeants in the entire battalion needed to report for a formation in front of battalion headquarters to meet with the command sergeant major. 

Well, this is strange, I thought to myself. Never in all my years in the Army had a sudden formation for everyone of the same rank in an entire battalion been called before.

What could this be about?

I fell into the rear of the formation and our CSM, a stout Pacific Islander with a heavy accent, very sternly asked the group to “look to your left, and right, and ask your brothers if they’re okay.”

Slightly bewildered, we did so, and everyone seemed fine that day. 

“Sergeants…. Apparently, we have a staff sergeant in our formation that isn’t doing well. He is thinking about doing harm to himself… it has something to do with trackers or something… I don’t really know. I just know there’s a staff sergeant in our family here that is having suicidal ideations and we need to know that everyone is all right. Know that we’re looking out for you, and…”

He carried on for a long while about the importance of looking out for each other as a family and the seriousness of the situation. 

It took every ounce of discipline to stifle the hysterical laughing fit that was brewing inside. My face turned beet red as I started to slightly shake while suppressing the urge to just burst out in laughter while everyone else in formation was glancing around with looks of genuine concern and consternation, slowly nodding in agreement with the CSM. 

They never did figure out who it was that was so fed up with trackers that day, but, lo and behold, first the master tracker disappeared. Then, slowly but surely, more and more of our requirements to update the plethora of spreadsheets on the battalion share-drive slowly wilted to a manageable, bare-minimum.

And you know what? Somehow, even in the absence of all those fucking trackers, our unit managed to get by just fine…

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