John F. Clennan
Hail & Farewell is one of my favorite stories about the internal politics of the Army Police network. And while it tells you much about agency & inter-agency rivalry, it also speaks to an even more subtle issue.
Military Police Blotter was published by the legendary Bill Loepkey's Inditer Dot Com of Canada.
Against advancing illness and frustration which the legal system imposed, Bill Loepkey promoted literature and culture on the internet. It is no small recognition that his countrymen have hono[u]red Bill in their Bibliotek Nationale.
John Davis Collins is my pen name as previously explained. I say of myself I speak French, study Latin, take Greek lessons but dream in Brooklynese. The Rockaway Park Philosophical Society of which I am Vice-President and founding member strongly advocates an American National Language: American Standard Jive , while maintaining such suitable ties to the mother country as are warranted. Cheerio.
Hail and Farewell
....1997 all rights reserved by John Davis Collins
The Army calls these parties 'Hails and Farewells,' I'm not sure what autonomous Criminal Investigations Division calls them. Tonight as usual as Chief of Operations, I serve as Master of Ceremonies at the right hand of sharp featured Colonel Ken Granger. Joining us at the head table are two retiring and two incoming agents in uniform per the Colonel's instructions.
There was some grumbling over the Colonel's decision, but he remained firm. "Anywhere near Ft. Gates, a man not in uniform is probably a drug dealer; a woman, a prostitute." He snarled. And there certainly was plenty of both around post even if our stats didn't show it.
Despite the decision the air among the 40 odd agents collected was festive. A few agents were gathered in a semi circle around a publicity poster bearing the legend, "There's something about a CID Agent," picturing a grizzly detective, gun drawn and jacket flapping after him. The poster was part of CID's meager effort to reinforce elan.
We didn't really need the childish tokens the mainline of the Army used any way. Our CID Agents were for the most part highly motivated, productive and cooperative, with few exceptions. My attention was drawn to Rolf Wilson, who headed Drugs Suppression. Unlike most of the other agent who wore the CID imprint, neatly pressed dark blue business suit, white shirt and knotted tie, Rolf was casually attired in a sweater vest and tie. The drugs team was allowed to deviate from the CID veneer of professionalism, but this occasion was not appropriate.Chugalugging beer with one of the retirees, Wilson had come from deep cover in Germany with so much promise. The performance had been disappointing. Wilson recycled routine Criminal Information Reports, into accounts of investigations.
"Criminfo compiles rumors, anonymous tips, and reports passed along from other agencies. It is a starting point not an end in itself...The post clubs, particularly the bowling alley are crawling with drugs...Act on it...Do an old fashioned raid, if you can't think of something else," I had shoved a sheath of reports back at Wilson just the other day. I was interrupted in my thoughts by the Colonel.
The Colonel's sharp eyes penetrated Tom Watson, a new arrival out of the CID school. Out of Watson's hearing, the Colonel remarked, "I think he's too soft for drugs. One CID Instructor wanted him dropped from the CID program entirely." The school forged CID and fostered a bonding few police agencies could boast. Reservations about a prospective agent were nearly always fatal. Yet, Watson had made the team. I had to deem him suitable.I nodded and replied, "The evaluations say that 'Watson is a hard working cop'... We need a good cop to boost our stats."
The Colonel grimaced. He too had read the worldwide stats and our dusty Ft. Gates, home to 100,000 GIs, the largest post in the Army, lagged behind the other CID regions. "My job as Chief of Operations, Colonel, is to balance personalities and keep the machine moving forward."
The Colonel smiled and inched forward. "I can't wait to hold a party for you..." He paused deliberately and added, "When you apply for a direct commission...What would they make you ? A Major ?"
I paused. I flirted with an application for a commission. Yet, I liked my job at the heartbeat of a major CID office, pulling the strings, making the machine surge ahead. Even a CID commanding officer lacked the power of a Chief of Operations. I replied cautiously, "Colonel, I'd tick off some green CID recruit like New York Jack and he'd turn his guns on me. CID, Colonel, serves CID."
"We're all puppets on a string." He leaned back and relaxed, "Sooner or later we must find a new act to play in. ...Besides...,but you're already an officer...A CID Warrant Officer 4."
I chuckled, I was already the Puppet Master, at least at Fort Gates, "Pay grade. My title is Special Agent," I said with the soft confidence of a seasoned agent, "We say we're different."
"You're capable and ambitious and would enjoy the prestige. When you find the courage, let me know."
For a moment, greater dreams would have to be put aside. I would have to work on the drugs team's statistics. I pored over the bar graphs forwarded from CID Headquarters: The lines showed poor performance in developing informants, poor performance in coordinating with civilian police agencies, and poor performance in cooperation with the MPs. The commentary read: "Reports from Fort Gates CID show valuable criminfo is not being adequately exploited."
Since Wilson ignored Criminal Information Reports of willing informants I decided to act. I called in Henry Keyes, the most promising informant, myself. My wood panelled office in CID's two story, white washed building suitably impressed the lively teenage volunteer. He looked too clean cut to be of value to us. Despite Keyes' neat appearance and short stature, Keyes spoke with authority on the murkiest of the drugs underground. Good informants with information of value are hard to come by. I would have accepted Keyes on the spot. Protocol required the agent in charge of drugs to make the decision.
Overriding my personal endorsement of Keyes . Wilson flatly rejected the informant. "Too hazardous." "We're in a dangerous business," I reminded Wilson.
A good operations chief doesn't take no for an answer. Watson was game for excitement.If one can't move the bosses, work through the underlings. I encouraged Keyes to stay in touch with Watson, while I pushed Rolf Wilson to move ahead with plans for a raid on the bowling alley.
"We have to bring in MPs for plainclothes duty. I have to see to their training," Wilson argued. "I can't lose some one to stupidity."
My strategy brought quick results. While Wilson toyed aimlessly with plans for the raid, Watson with the informant's help embarked on a series of decent drug busts on and off post in a short period of time. Our stats for the new quarter looked promising, as I admired the tally board I had fashioned on a rough piece of oaktag. I went to the drugs section, where wooden slats served as both an outer and inner wall as they did throughout most of the building. Wilson sat at a metal desk thumbing rough notes on the proposed bowling alley raid. "Finalize them," I said sarcastically, "Before the bowling alley folds."
A fourth operation was slated for a damp Friday evening in late autumn. I looked around Wilson's quiet sanctuary. It wouldn't remain tranquil this long. I intended shortly to add plain clothes MPs to the drug team on a permanent basis. CID admitted few intruders even MPs to its sacred precincts. An exception was made in drugs where younger faces could more easily circulate through the ringlets of iniquity.
What to do with Wilson ?, I asked myself. CID Agents could not be shunted aside. I never expected the raid's plans to be finalized. As I left the day of the deal, I asked the duty agent to keep me posted. After midnight, I called the drugs section and spoke to a plain clothes MP. Only two MPs monitored the buy. "We nailed the buyer; the seller got away and we lost the informant."
The news was doubly bad. Military court martial panels like civilian juries were suspicious of the story, that the seller got away. And we lost a promising informant to boot ! "Lost him ?"
"Scoured the area. Can't be found."
"Where's Wilson and Watson ?"
"Wrapping up the raid at the bowling alley...They came up dry."
I phoned Colonel Granger. I wanted Wilson relieved on the spot. The olonel chuckled. " CID brotherhood doesn't work when you're angry...Wait 'till Monday. See if the informant is still alive."
To my surprise, the Colonel, pleased that the informant checked in, leniently allowed Wilson to use accumulated leave to reach retirement.
"I wanted you to go down in flames, but," the Colonel paused deliberately, " Mr. Miller talked me out of it. Be gone and be grateful."
The Colonel acted adroitly and correctly. CID protected its own and left disputes within the family. Wilson sat there stunned and then bolted from the room.
Molting into a look of bemused self-satifaction, the Colonel chided "And you tell me you don't want to sit where it begins and ends." The Colonel beamed back in his chair reflectively and waited for a minute before he asked, "Who do we have to head drugs ?"
"Watson." I said without hesitation. "He's anxious for a good fight."
"C'mon. E6, Six years in the Army. Six months in CID. I can't put Sergeants in charge of a staff section. That's an officer's job."
I retorted. "We're all Special Agents, all equal."
The Colonel raised his eyebrows critically. "Okay. --- Temporarily. Have him apply for promotion to Warrant Officer. And..."
"I'll shepherd Watson in his new job."
"Your recommendation, Frank, your funeral if Sergeant, ah, "the Colonel twisted his head and contorted his face in exaggeration. " Excuse me. Special Agent Watson messes up." Statistics climbed into late fall when they suddenly crashed. I was not perturbed. Our criminfo had been made wise to two GIs selling drugs off post. I called on Watson.
Watson shook his head. "Keyes doesn't like a set up buy."
"He's telling us how to operate. Lean on Keyes and get him to do our bidding. This is the Army, Sergeant Watson."
Meanwhile I visited the regional Drug Enforcement Administration in the state capitol. I was impressed. DEA's fashionably decored offices in a bright modern building exuded the professionalism CID envied. . Their agents had game plans for raids, like a well organized football team and the blue prints with precise measurements of all good locations for controlled buys, and equipment that the Army CID would not get in a century. I wondered if I could scrounge together three working undercover vehicles with working radios.
The DEA Agent in charge was clear that he wasn't interested in small potatoes."Get a big enough deal...6 ounces or more...the money, and enough bodies to back us up and I'll run the raid."
Getting Watson to win the informant's cooperation was easy. I still had to persuade the Colonel to approve 015 money, buy money.
"It's off our turf, outside Army jurisdiction. Why should we spend the money ?" The Colonel protested.
"It involves Army personnel. CID's investigative jurisdiction..."
"Frank..," the Colonel stood up and pushed his chair into the desk and came around to sit on the edge informally.
"Other agencies don't care about our work. They'll waste our money practicing. I'm going to get you the money to teach you a lesson that you ain't quite as smart as you think." He buzzed his secretary to bring the forms in and signed it approved.
The raid was planned at DEA for a shopping center 5 miles outside the camptown. "We own it," the DEA agent bragged.
I brought the DEA plan to the colonel. The plan itself was a work of art in a neatly drafted to scale sketch of the shopping center, showing the position of the backup and control teams.
"Our boys... and girls make up most of the muscle. And hopefully after the buy we'll deliver the subjects to DEA," I tried to speak with utter self-assurance.
The Colonel read the list of signals the buyer would have to memorize. "One slip," he remarked, "And our undercover and informant get stampeded by their own people. You still want to go ahead ?"
The Colonel smiled when I offered, "I'll take charge on the scene."
"Nothing of the kind," the Colonel roared, "You'll make Watson and the 18 year old plain clothes MPs nervous that they're being watched by the Chief." He sighed.
A chill infected the air that Sunday night. After the team left on the mission, I came to the office to wait for word. Time ticked by, as I sat at a vacant desk in the duty team's office on the first floor. Rain, then sleet and snow pelted against the unfinished walls while the duty agents played cards.
The noise of the howling wind caused the agents to look at the ceiling to the dangling overhead light gently swaying . "I hope we don't lose power," one said wistfully.
At 11 p.m., the duty agents looked up from their game and looked at the clock on the wall. "Mr. Watson," one said, "doesn't always come back after a deal if another police department takes the collar."
The phone rang. It was Watson. One of the MPs had been killed mistakenly giving a signal bringing an avalanche of police cars down on him. I closed my eyes. The duty agent shrugged his shoulders, "At least it wasn't a CID Agent," he said.
I called the Colonel. There was a pause. "Casualties of War... might be smart if you submitted that application before fallout hits you."
In the Army, the past, present and future meets at a formal party called a Hair and Farewell. I sat on the right side of the dais in uniform with Rolf Wilson. He was calm, relaxed and even jovial.Wilson clapped the loudest when the Colonel embedded the major's gold leaf into my shoulders and said, "We sadly lose Major Frank Miller to CID Command Headquarters."
After the presentation, I turned to Rolf Wilson. "You're pretty upbeat for narrowly squeaking through to retirement," I commented caustically.
"And why not, I got what I wanted. Did You ?" He replied.
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