Let me present three scenarios for you.
- My neighbor’s kids keep riding their bikes across my yard. They do this when it is dry or wet and is starting to leave ruts and bare patches.
- The storm last night damaged a big tree in my backyard. A large branch is hanging precariously across the sidewalk and street.
- My husband is deployed and hasn’t called in like three days.
In which of these three would you call the command structure of your base or post? Notice I said command structure — not the commander because there is a chain of command even civilians should follow when reporting a problem or a complaint.
The answer, of course, is number two. This really happened to me when we lived on the corner in Minot. A storm damaged a tree, and a huge branch was hanging over the sidewalk and into the street. One more gust of wind, and the whole thing would come crashing down. I’d called the number the base gave out to report the damage. Nothing happened. I called housing maintenance. Again nothing happened. I finally called Civil Engineering, and they sent someone out to look at it.
In this case, the issue was one of potential danger. The street and sidewalk led to the junior high on-base. Kids and cars were around all the time. I was afraid someone would be in that spot when the branch broke off. This was a time to get the command structure involved.
Commanders at all levels are busy people. It’s not that they don’t care about you, but they have bigger picture things to handle, so they don’t want to get involved with petty neighborhood squabbles or your husband not calling on time. Trust me, if something happened to your deployed spouse, you would be notified through the proper channels.
Sometimes you have to call the chain of command, like when your spouse is abusive to you or the children or committing a crime. Or if issues at home might affect his or her ability to focus on their job. And especially in emergencies when you cannot reach your spouse or need the Red Cross to deliver a message.
Twice in Georgia, I implemented the call to the commander. Once, Mrs. Tech Sergeant fell and hit her mouth on a concrete stoop. Her mouth was bleeding badly, and I felt I should take her to the emergency room. I knew the Good Chaplain was out with the vice-wing commander, but I didn’t know where. Also, he should have been home by then. We didn’t have a cell phone, so I called the vice wing commander’s house.
“Bobby, this is Vicki. Do you know where the Good Chaplain is?”
“One of the girls fell and hurt her mouth. I need him to meet me at the ER.”
“I’m on it.”
And he was. In the meantime, the Good Chaplain came home.
“Bobby, this is Vicki again. He just got home. Thank you for your help.”
“Oh, good. I’ll call off the police.”
He called the police to find the Good Chaplain and relay my message. He was a commander who cared about his airmen and their families.
The second incident also happened in Georgia, but the Good Chaplain was away on a temporary duty assignment in New Mexico. Again, Mrs. Tech Sergeant had an issue. Her teacher called me in to report behavior that might indicate she had been abused. I was beside myself. Who would do such a thing? I tried to reach the Good Chaplain, but he was in the field. I tried all week. I left frantic messages. I called the Chapel to see if they could get a message to him. Unfortunately, they were of no help. I knew the Air Force Reserve Command, located on our base, had chaplains at the same location, so I finally called their chaplain office. They told me the group was delayed a day in the field, but they would get the message to contact him as soon as possible. I don’t know about you, but I want my husband by my side in an emergency.
I didn’t precisely follow the chain of command in all these instances, but I knew who I could call to get the help I needed. It’s easy to find out who to contact by going to your family resource center. They have many resources, phone numbers, and classes to guide you in the right direction.
After trying the family resource center, the next step is to contact your unit’s Key Spouse (Air Force), Ombudsman (Navy and Coast Guard), Family Readiness Coordinator (Marines), or Family Readiness Support Advisor (Army). These people are specially trained to help. They are assigned by the unit commander to aid in issues affecting life in the military.
If that isn’t enough, the chain of command begins with your spouse’s immediate supervisor. Then the supervisor’s supervisor. Next in order is the First Sergeant, Flight or Company Commander (or whatever it is called in your branch), Squadron Commander or Chief, Group Commander or Chief, and then the Wing, Base, Post, Ship Commander or Chief.
Try the person directly in charge of your spouse first and work your way up. But you maybe don’t need to go to the supervisor at all. Like with the tree branch, I called the base’s number, I called housing maintenance, and then I called Civil Engineering, which at the time handled housing maintenance.
“The commander is the last resort. They are not the ombudsman. Try all the other agencies to do what you can do. Then, if you have exhausted all other resources, get the commander involved,” the Good Chaplain said.
Many problems can be resolved by going directly to the source — the neighbor whose children are riding their bikes across your lawn, leaving ruts. Talk to your deployed spouse when you can and ask them to tell you when they won’t be able to call, so you don’t worry.
“The military has the presumption of adulthood. Act like an adult,” the Good Chaplain said.
Find out the resources available to you and use them. Usually, the problem can be solved at the lowest level.
Next time, is it appropriate to carry on and make a big to-do at a homecoming celebration?
Did you have to get command involved in an issue? Comment in the reply section below. And be sure to sign up for this blog to never miss another exciting post!