Blame Game

ThinkerOne of my mentors when I was a teenaged Army Private was a Puerto Rican First Sergeant named Pedro Olivari. First Sergeant Olivari was nearing the end of a distinguished Army career when I knew him in 1972. His constant companion was a stubby cigar. That was well before the smoking police criminalized smoking indoors. He was a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam. In Korea he was battlefield commissioned. He achieved the rank of Captain and commanded a company. As the Army often does, or did, following the strength buildup during the Korean War, there was a reduction in force. His Captain rank was not permanent so he was given the option to remain in the Army as an enlisted man, which to the Army’s benefit he did.

In the Army, you are always replacing someone. Sometimes, when things do not go as they should the temptation is to blame whatever the problem is on the guy you replaced. This was one bad habit Top Olivari would call you out on. It was nearly 40 years ago, but I am fairly certain that I first heard this illustrative story from him.

As a First Sergeant was leaving his job, he passed to his replacement 3 letters that were numbered 1, 2 and 3 and sealed in envelopes. He told his replacement if he encountered a problem and it was not going well for him he should open the first letter. It was not long before the new First Sergeant encountered such a problem. One evening while sitting alone and contemplating his problem, he opened and read the first letter. The first letter said blame this problem on the old First Sergeant and if it happens again open the second letter. It was not too long until the need arose to open the second letter. The second letter said blame the problem on the old First Sergeant and if this happens again open the third letter. Blaming it on the old First Sergeant became easier, a habit, so as soon as there was another problem he did not hesitate to open the third letter. The third letter contained a different message. It said write three letters.

Now I don’t know if George Bush left any letters for his replacement, but if he did it must have been a bunch of them.

One thought on “Blame Game”

  1. Isn’t it funny how you always remember someone from early in your career. My first Sergeant Major was William C. Frandsen. I will never forget him. “SMaj” (he hated to be called that) taught me a lot about
    being a soldier and accepting responsibility for my own actions.

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