Sometimes, we think we are ready for things that, well, we are not ready for. This happened to me on my second deployment.
I was the de-facto commander of a detachment supporting a Brigade HQ. The real Company Commander was filling a trainer role the Battalion Commander had put together with the Iraqi's, and they left the main body of the Company to me. This meant that I was in charge of the Hand Receipt.
I had no problem with most of the other tasks I had to do. I had the help of a good 1SG, so not many things got past me. I would even go so far as to say I was really good at the convoy missions we had to pull. But I was not ready for the level of responsibility that the property hand receipt was.
The hand receipt was absolutely massive. It was about 50 pages. But, it was mostly computers, monitors and weapons. I owned every piece of automation on the base and everyone's weapons, regardless of who they were assigned to. The difficulty of this was compounded by the fact that this was a joint unit, so people were constantly coming and going.
My supply NCO was a specialist that was allergic to work. He was not that good anyway, so I ended up doing most of the organization, even if I was not really trained to do so.
About halfway through the cycle, they decided to switch out the position so I could get some experience advising the Iraqis. Another LT who had been doing an advising role would take over for me, so I organized the inventories. 90% happened with no problem. But 10% was completely screwed up. And that 10 percent was all weapons and computers.
People had moved bases, redeployed, or one of several other reasons leading to me not having good accountability of some items. At the end of the day, nothing was missing. But it was pretty clear that I did not have a good system set up to keep track of these items. It took us an extra week after the inventories were complete to chase down everything.
I did a good job at the on the ground leadership tasks. But I was not ready for the property portion. If I had more training before hand or some experience with a hand receipt, this may have been mitigated. And it nearly costed me a paycheck, if not my career. Knowing what I know now, it could have been a lot worse.
I had been pretty confident beforehand that I could walk into a Command position and be effective. That experience had taught me that, sometimes, you just need to take your time and learn. They key to success in the Army, it seems to me, is to not shirk from doing things that are unfamiliar or hard, but to know when it may be too much too soon. Or at least know to ask for help when you need it.