Distantly Related to the Great Graduation Date Debate of 2012

This whole “unethical to omit your law school graduation/bar admission date from online resumes and bios” thing caused me to remember something from my own past.

Just an anecdote. Take it for what it’s worth.

From June 1996 to June 1998, I was a Second Lieutenant in the Army. For those of you not familiar with Army ranks, this is lowest officer rank (pay grade O-1). For most in the Army, being a Second Lieutenant is the lowest of lows. As a population, they are both clueless and given a certain amount of authority. It can be a deadly combination.

I now freely admit that I was clueless. Why? I was new. I had very little immersion in my craft, with my only knowledge of the Army from academic/training environments. For that reason, being a Second Lieutenant is very much a purely developmental rank. My peers and I were a constant source of amusement and derision for the Noncommissioned Officers (Sergeants, essentially) who knew us. Though, the good Sergeants took great pride in training us and improving our level of competency.

Anyway, the Army abbreviation for Second Lieutenant is 2LT, and 1LT for First Lieutenant (pay grade O-2).

When my signature was present on a memo, I should have typed “2LT, IN” under my name. That stands for Second Lieutenant, Infantry (my rank and branch of the Army). However, most of us Second Lieutenants put “LT, IN” because of our shame at being of such a lowly, entry-level rank. That way, people would think that, perhaps, I was a First Lieutenant, which is infinitely better in Army society.

See that? I did that in the hopes that people would see me as more experienced than I really was. Sure, I could sugar-coat it and come up with a bunch of intelligent-sounding excuses, but that’s akin to coating a turd with potpourri. It is still just a turd.

One day, I submitted a memo about an upcoming rifle qualification range to my Battalion Headquarters. A few hours later, I received a call from headquarters, telling me that the Battalion Commander (a Lieutenant Colonel (pay grade O-5) wanted to see me.

I arrived at his office. He told me to enter. He did not invite me to sit. The conversation went something like this:

Battalion Commander (BC): Lieutenant, I noticed you put your rank abbreviation as “LT” instead of “2LT.”

Me: Yes, sir.

BC: Why?

Me: I……..um……….(long pause)……..(looking at my boots)…….(sweating profusely).

BC: Don’t worry. I know the reason. You’re trying to bullshit about your rank. But you’re really bullshitting yourself.

Me: …

BC: What are you hiding? Do you realize how stupid this looks? Did you think you could just reinvent Army acronyms?

Me: Sir……..I……….(sweating gallons).

BC: I don’t think you are dishonest, Lieutenant, but this signature block gives the impression that you’re trying to be. Do you want to be seen as dishonest?

Me: No, sir.

BC: I didn’t think so. Go re-do this memo and have it back to me in 10 minutes. [he crumpled it into a ball and tossed it at me].  Stop being a moron. You’re a butter-bar [a slang term for a 2LT derived from the gold-colored bar worn by 2LTs on their uniforms]. Be happy about that. When you’re as old as me, you’ll wish you could go back to the days of being a 2LT. Before you know it, the rank will be a thing of the past and you’ll be older. Do you understand?

Me: Yes, sir.

BC: Get the fuck out of my office.

After that, he and I got along great, and I always put “2LT” under my name. Well, until I made First Lieutenant, at which time I quickly put “1LT.”


2 thoughts on “Distantly Related to the Great Graduation Date Debate of 2012

  1. One good thing about being a 2LT, lots of freedom to fail and learn from your mistakes so long as you were actually trying to accomplish something useful when the failure happened.

    Two good things about being a Captain: A) you are no longer a Lieutenant; and B) unless you look young enough to be in high school, no one who doesn’t personally know you has any idea how long you’ve been a Captain — you could be a baby Captain or one that is about to pin on Major.

    • When I was promoted to Captain in 2000, my Brigade Commander told me that everyone assumes that Captains know what they are doing. It is the military equivalent of a license to fake the funk.

      In my case, that was a dangerous thing.

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