Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The shitty life of an MTO

A day in the life of an MTO

Monday
0745: Fall men in
0815: Start first parade. Watch late stragglers stroll in. "Why you late", I ask. "Traffic jam lah, sir." Give him benefit of doubt, but wonder what I'm going to say to him next time. Receive call on handphone: "Sir, got urgent business at home, can take urgent leave or not?" Resist urge to say no, tell him to be back by lunch. Note to self: call up home and ask about family situation. All the other stragglers sign 1 extra.

0830: Dismissed. Drivers start coming to office asking about medical appointments. I don't have the time (though I constantly swear to make time) to check on them, so I sign the Off Pass Book hesitantly. Note to self: Check on drivers.

0845: "Sir, I cannot go on exercise, not feeling well lah". "Fuck you lah, everything also doewan to go Nevermind, just tell the conducting officer and tell the medic to keep a lookout for you". "But Sir, safety leh..." "Kanina better go now before you really have to call for medic Nevermind, anything happen I answer". Shudder as I recount tales of how other MTOs tried the hard method and got more than half the MT Line on MC (authentic or not I don't know.)

0900: "Sir, canteen break?" *sigh. look at watch* Report back to me by 0930.

1000: Canteen dudes not back yet. Call them up: "Sir, we helping out at the other MT Line, will be back after lunch" "OK, but kanina next time give me a call lah, all have my number right? Cheebye man all of you..." "Sorry lah sir, busy mah." I let the matter drop.

1100: MT Sergeant (DXO, by the way) complains about drivers. Not signing logbooks, not signing stuff in and out properly. "Just give them extra lah". "Sir, you talk to them better lah". "Ok, I try, but unless the vehicles get sorted out there's not much I can do". Which is true: I'm busy enough trying to get the daily vehicle detailing (list of who goes where to do what in which vehicle. one list per workday. from 3 different units within the same camp.), so I leave maintenance under the care of the supervisors. Doesn't seem to be working out too well.

1115: Talk to drivers about lack of accounting. "Hard lah sir, some vehicles cannot even find logbook *mental eye-popping on my part here*, how to sign?" "Take another vehicle lah" "So many off-road (unserviceable) ones, troublesome to find lah. Take 5 vehicle, all 5 cannot drive" "This time let you off. Next time go and find one working one with logbook, understand?" "Yes sir". Don't like giving too many extras. Lowers MT Line morale, and any MTO would know driver morale is everything, since it is directly linked to attendance. Note to self: One of these days, fuck care them and just whack. One of these days.

1200: Receive call from QM: "Hey, want to go lunch?" "Go where?" "Cookhouse?" "Fuck lah, cookhouse food so shitty." "Then hawker centre loh." "Ok, you pick me up when you ready ar?" "Can."

1215: Honk from QM's vehicle. "Eh, sorry leh, today got many calls lah, stupid last0minute indents. you go ahead first, da bao for me can?" QM sighs. "No problem. you look quite stress leh, how's things here?" "Hoh, how's things ar? I ready to demolish 5tonner already leh." "Wah, lax man. I go now, talk to you later".

1300: Lunch arrives. I eat at table. Drivers comment. "Fuck you all lah, you want to eat in driver's office also can lah, you drop you lick up loh." "You say one ah, Sir?" "yalayala". MT sergeant not in office, so to hell with the no eating rule. I'm quite a slack guy; my command philosophy palces a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility, you see. Which the drivers still lack.

1315: Leftover drivers start vehicle servicing. Which is alot like weapon and equipment cleaning, but is more troublesome and has more implications.
1. If a weapon is unserviceable, you can still bring it outfield. If a vehicle is unserviceable, bringing it out will guarantee a good fucking from log(istics) branch.
2. Unserviceable weapons and equipment is portable, and with any type of vehicle you can easily bring it to D/GSMB and get it repaired after the paperwork is done. With an unserviceable vehicle, you need to acivate the tow service. Meanwhile, it sits there and you sit there waiting to get fucked (even though it's not your fault, but this *is* the SAF).
3. To clean and maintain a weapon, you just need to bring it out of the armskote. To cleam and service a vehicle, you need to drive it to the servicing bay, and you need someone who is proficient enough in preventive maintenance. People like them are in very short supply, since they are drivers and have to go on detail too.
4. Armskotemen and storemen don't have to go outfield. Drivers do. Even then, armskotemen and storemen can do equipment maintenance outfield. Drivers cannot, except for basic stuff (tyre changing, for instance).

1330: Mid-day parade. Spend 1/2 hour tracking down all missing personnel. Water parade. "Eh, driver movement board not for decoration one leh. Better update, or got nice stuff coming your way". "Yes sir *giggles coming from behind*" "Funny right, ar?" "No sir." Note to self: find one day, do spot check, all those never update sign extra. Well, there's not a whole lot of choice I have in terms of punishment. No push-ups. So there's extras and suspension of leave (moot point, since most of them will just get appointments, some with valid reasons), and summary trial. Not that I can spare any drivers sitting idle in DB.

1400: Phone call. "I asked for driver for today leh, where's he?" "Eh, dont' have yoru indent here leh" "Eh, I indented 3 months ago leh *yeah, and I was still a fucking cadet leh*, you all say can how come now cannot" "Wait, I check for you" MT sergeant says he cannot confirm, since his inbox got wiped out when they installed the new LCD screen WinXP computers "I try to get driver for you now, so hold on, hor". I honestly think he's just smoking me but have no way to confirm, and don't really need another complaint being sent to my boss.

1405: try to wake up driver. "wah sir, so many drivers sitting around you get them leh" "fuck you lah they all storemen lah" "deh! got so many drivers sleeping in rest area?" "those 2 resting for night exercise lah! go and check vehicle now!" "sir, exercise also can go now right? we last time also like that one what..." *kureshii controls urge to fall all drivers in and make them watch as this fucking driver checks his vehicle before moving out* "just go now, no questions" "sir, got off or not" "fuck you, understand?"

1410: wanker calls again. "yes, your vehicle going down now. jt wait a bit. ok? thank you, bye bye".

1430: plan detailing for next week. I just took over detailing from the previous guy a week ago, so things are still quite hectic. notice that the local training school has intelligently clumped 4 major exercises within a 3-day slot weeks down the road.
what the fuck is wrong with these training branch people? I have 30 drivers on paper; 10 are on course, 3 are excuse driving long-term, about 3 on average will be on MC each day, 3 are going to ORD, how many does that leave me with? You do the math.

1440: Send request for more drivers to XTptBn. Meeting in 2 days time to confirm results of request. [update: they gave me 4 drivers, out of 19 requested]. Send email to training branch, informing them of their oversight. Request for them to push 2 exercises to the next week. Email comes back: cannot push, last week of course for trainees already, and training area need to bid 3 mths in advance. Try asking from other units. XXXXXX camp: cannot support. XX SAR: drivers on 4NTM. XXXXXXX Camp: 10 drivers just ORDed. XXXX Camp: Yet to be confirmed (but they are the POI Bn, yeah, so what do you think? Their vehicle consumption is bonkers.) [Further update: Thank God for training branch personnel who understand ground problems. Redistributed available drivers among exercises. training school isn't pleased, but accepts new arrangement]

1450: Send email again, regretfully informing them of likely inability to support. "Please try. you have 30 drivers right?" Riiiiiight.

1520: Email arrives in inbox. Not my inbox; OA account still being set up, so I'm using a storeman's account. Pathetic place. "from major A: meeting at 0900 hrs tomorrow to discuss vehicle indent. inform major B also.". Great, they just invited me for crab steak at the conference room tomorrow. again, not my fault; training requirement only came 2 weeks ago, and some people continually insist on neglecting to factor in logistical support,opting instead to tekan the QM or MTO.

1540: Send out email. "11 drivers supporting Ex XXXXXXXXX overseas in june, please send vehicle requirement for june ASAP and keep this in mind during planning." that should show them. Will send out final email briefing the whole camp on procedures for requesting vehicle, but decide to do that once my OA account is ready. Don't want to have PTE X in the From: field, lah.

1600: Urgent indent again. Can send vehicle anot? Cannot lah, no mroe drivers. Please, dis wan veeery ergen leh, need to [snip]. "Ok lah, I try lah". New officer, need to build up HR lah. And not just for my own good also; All the driver welfare has to go through HQ also. Bad PR = slow processing of driver incentives, no goretex jacket, etc. you get the idea. And I'd be too embarassed to chase them for it. Activate 1 X supervisor to drive vehicle. Thankfully he gos willingly - these guys are real dedicated, man. Says something about your MT Line when you have to resort to activating regulars to support indents.

1630: "Sir, nothing else to do already leh, fall out early?" "No" "Please, sir?" "Go and do area cleaning" "sir, quite clean already lar, no need lar" I give them the look "ok lar sir, we go and do lor".

1700: "Our vehicles for tomorrow exercise parked already or not?" "Parked already what...some of my drivers (freshly back from detail) bring them down already" "still short of 2 rovers leh" Move heaven and earth to find them, only to discover they have just been moved down. Big time fucker man, no patience at all.

1730: Last parade. MT sergeant and CSM scolds drivers.

1740: Fall out drivers.

1830: Go home. Forget all my notes to self.

Repeat for Tuesday, Wednesday and all them other weekdays. Thank God it's a 5-day-week camp.

Well, if you're wondering, all the in-between time isn't spent sleeping or anything; just all the mundane stuff like confirming stock status with storemen, checking on vehicle logbooks (which are wrongly filled in many times), making phone calls, getting phone calls, taking phone calls for duty driver ("hello, CMTL" "who's this?" "MTO" "orh, MTO Sir ah, ..." you'll notice a distinct difference between the first and second response when an LCP and below makes the call), etc.

I tell you most honestly, it's a really shitty job. With trainees and men it's much easier, because "just chiong a little more and it'll be over then we can all go for OFF!" The drivers know better: "chiong so hard, next week still got exercise, then the week after that and after that..." and I can't give them OFF so easily since I need all of them. It starts to sap you a little when you have to deal with drivers with such low morale. And it's hard to motivate them, since the rate at which indents come it's almost guaranteed they'll get their civvie license anyway, and most of them have no idea what they want to do after ORD so "wait and see lor".

What hurts most is that it's so difficult to reward those who really work hard, because I end up calling them back when things get so bad I have no choice but to. Final note to self: Give PTE Y his long overdue promotion and ORD gift and super-kilat testimonial when he ORDs in 4 weeks' time. And remember to prepare all that stuff.

17 comments:

Hobbes said...

wah lao eh... I dun envy you. MTO is one of the toughest job you can get in a unit (non-physically speaking).

I remembered that my unit MTO had to be very strict with the drivers in order not to let them climb over the head and shit there. He practically treated them as recruits. It was only when they became more disciplined that he allowed them to slack off abit.

Perhaps you might want to seek your CSM's advice as to how you should handle them.

Good luck.

averilchan said...

Hey...Any idea where I can get hold of the OCS Song lyrics? Many thanks... =)

roti lim kopi said...

wow, i have no idea MTO is so shiong... i guess company line ppl always take MTO and drivers for granted. combat personnel have a tendency to feel that chiong suah is the siong-est part, but support personnel is no slacker too. good post!

Hai~Ren said...

Logistics and support can be just as siong as combat.

And being an MTO is a really unenviable job. Though maybe it is easier to handle if you're working as MTO at the battalion level: then CSM holds more power over their discipline.

jmarki said...

Ask MT Sgt for help and advice. Cos if he is the type who can make it one, will have handled a lot of such crisis b4. Some kind of things don't need to do by yourself one. =p

That is *if the MT Sgt not cmi loh...

kureshii said...

Thanks for all the comments.

Hobbes & jmarki: Huh, all my supervisors know is giving extras. And charging drivers. C'mon, my drivers are stretched to the limit supporting exercises and the like, and you want me to throw some of them in DB? I can't spare the manpower. I suppose driver morale is really low because the supervisors don't give a shit about their welfare, only about getting things done. How would you feel if your PC/chief clerk/whoever-is-above-you doesn't give a shit about you?

Seriously, speaking as an NSF officer, if you can balance welfare (not canteen breaks and stuff, but actually caring about your men, worrying about their outfield lunches, following up after they take urgent leave to settle family problems etc) with discipline and not end up with demoralised drivers or let them climb all over your head, you are on your way to becoming your own boss. I won't say I've been very successful; refer to story.

Roti: I haven't taken a day off since I got on the job; just 2 medical appointments for gut infection and 1 medical review for my air force application. And I doubt there'll be a workday I get to stay at home, at least until my ORD/transfer date.

Hai~ren: I'm an MTO at the HQ and Bn level: this camp has one formation HQ, one operational NSF battalion, and one training school. I'm the only MTO here; the other guy is supposedly my understudy and he's on course now.

averil:

We come from many places, all across the land
From many different races, togetehr hand in hand
United we stand, divided we fall
Ready to serve our nation's call

**We come from OCS, we are the very best
Leading with dignity and pride
Whereever we go, we will always know
Taht our spirit lives forevermore

Loyalty to country, it's what we all believe
To lead excel and overcome is what we must achieve
Forever strong and valiant, we'll give out lives and more
Never ceasing to serve Singapore.

Repeat **

I know most people will think it sounds dumb and over-garang, because that's what I thought when I was first posted there post-BMT. You'll feel different about it though, once you've been singing it [OCS Song], saying it [Officers' Creed] and feeling it for 42 weeks, and probably will never get another chance (as an NSF) to sing it or say it. If you want to poke fun at it or make alternative versions of it, don't address them to me.

azzurri81 said...

If you want my honest opinion, whack those slack f***ers up and down the shop til they behave. MT line is really the sh*t of sh*t places. Speaking from my unit which had a REDCON 4 (yes, 4) MT line, if you let these slacking jerkoffs take MC and off and disappear so often, they are just gonna climb all over your head. End of the day, drivers have an easier life. The incentive of stay-out is already too big a reward and that's why they are taking MC so often because they know they can get away with it. Just put one very simple choice to them: Be an outfield combat soldier or a driver? Trust me, nobody wants to chiong. It is still the worst deal. In spite of all the admin crap that drivers must do (yet so skilfully smoke out of), they will never want to be an chionging soldier. My unit's MT line was exactly as yours and what was the result? REDCON 4. Missing tonner. Missing keys. Missing logbooks. Once I had petrol stolen from my motorbike just hours before an exercise. Vehicles never repaired or taken damn long to be repaired. Usually it's never and we had to resort to borrowing from other units. End of the day, what did all this crap come from? Lazy asses hiding behind vehicles on the pretext of working but smoking (both literally and figuratively). And smoking in the petrol store too because no one will look there! Life is hard for them? Give my a** a sorry break.

Haha, apologies if I do come out pretty strongly. These are just my experiences with the MT line in my NS. Dealing with them was really a test of patience and teaches you all about office politics in the workplace. I rode a motorbike for my vocation and often had to deal with the MT line and I could often see what the men of MT line were doing or not doing for that matter. No offence to you, Kureshii, but an officer can never view NS in the same way a man does. Both just have too different responsibilities and ideals. Just like your life is hard and you seek to make it easier, the only way that your men are going to make their 'hard' life easier is by smoking out because they know they can. And this way they are going to do so will often be detrimental to your job. I'll give you a simple analogy as a solution: The more you pander to crying babies, the more they'll cry to get their way. So is pandering to them the best long-term solution? That's for you to decide. :)

Hobbes said...

kureshii: I agree with you, moral can be severely affected when your superiors don't give a rat's ass about your welfare. But likewise, can an army unit function without discipline in the ranks?

I tend to agree with what azzurri81 said. IMHO, most drivers assume because they are drivers, they are “entitled” to a relatively simply and relaxed NS life. Hence the constant excuses to escape work, exercises etc.

It’s up to you as MTO to decide how you can solve your problem. I can only offer my view as to what others did in a similar situation. As I’ve said, you have a tough situation in your hands. How life will be for your remaining ns days there, will probably depend very much on how you handle the situation.

Good luck & keep us posted as to how things turn out. Cheers!

MysteryTanLines said...

AS an ex-MT NCO, I can tell you the drivers are a different culture. I'm not sure how they are assigned as drivers and what their criteria were. But being a driver is tough, one accident (even if its not your fault) and chances are you end up more often than not in DB. With that kind of attitude, what kind of motivation do you think the drivers really have and what kind of respect do you expect of them if no one stands up for them when something goes wrong. NCOs and MTOs speak a different language and come from a different culture from these guys too so it can be hard to relate too. Speaking from experience.

kureshii said...

Hey, sure, I'd like to whack them too...just no point shouting at a few drivers when the majority are out on exercise. big-exercise stint ends 2 weeks later, and my driving course ends around that time too. They'll see who's boss then.

Honestly, the drivers aren't half-bad. All but the rare few will come grudgingly if I assign them details. Those rare few will take MCs and do God knows what. Once this fucking exercise stint is over and the fucking phone calls stop coming I will pay home visits and I'll post you pictures of flying summary trials, if you like.

Keeping tabs on the drivers isn't too hard - throw extras whenever you find yourself in doubt. Works really well on stay-out drivers ;-) the hard part is keeping tabs on them when training branch and log branch and all the other branches of Yggdrasil (err, I mean HQ) wants to see you at the same time.

MaKan GuRu said...

Great little post that brought back memories of my little MT line. Our problem wa that we did nto have enough drivers so that it got to a point where some drivers were doing duty twice a week!

And oh yeah Kureshii, you forgot to mention all the overqualified lazy ass VMs like me! LOL! I once found a fellow VM asleep under a tonner with a spanner locked into the nut of the rear differential so as it would look like he was doing something. Damn funny man!

Wesley said...

Stop flaming drivers azzurri81. U try driving a 10 year old land rover with 50km/h in the hot blazing sun for one day and u will know why drivers have such bad attitude.

Moreover, the details come furiously and we drivers still have to deal with the incorrigble vehicle commanders.

We have duties to do and it's so damn hard to get off cos there's always a shortage of drivers.

U think drivers have good life? Think again.

And try not to piss off drivers during wartime because if you do, u have to travel on foot.

kureshii said...

well, here's a tip for all drivers:

you want to have more say in your off, try sucking up to your MTO. not by buying him breakfast or taking him out in your civvie vehicle for lunch, but by looking at things from his point of view. if he can't give you day off because he needs the old MT Line cleared, then make sure the old MT Line gets cleared before you bug him again. Opting to report sick instead isn't going to help your situation.

Yes, we understand you are shag and tired and just came back at 0700am in the morning, but if things need to be done they will be done before other thigns can come into the picture. any driver who doesn't understand this is only going to end up making things difficult for himself.

azzurri81 said...

Wesley: Don't worry about me, I have my own vehicle to worry about in wartime and carry me about. And I know I would much prefer driving a tonner at 50 km/h in the hot sun then riding a bike in a vehicle convoy moving at 50 km/h in the hot sun which was how my NS went. Like I said, the true test is this: Be a driver or combat soldier? If you still think drivers have the worse deal overall, then my apologies if I have offended you.

Kureshii: "Yes, we understand you are shag and tired and just came back at 0700am in the morning, but if things need to be done they will be done before other thigns can come into the picture. any driver who doesn't understand this is only going to end up making things difficult for himself." That is a very very true statement. If you think you are shagged, trust me, there are people more shagged than you.

bear_bear_sg said...

I read your blog with interest...

It brings back lots of memories as i was an MTO before. Not just a Battlion MTO but one that served the formation and all it's sub-units - including a training school... so my experience should not differ with yours by much. I had over 60+ people under my charge, including many regulars and over 200 vehicles of all types.

The key thing in managing a MT line is 'fairness' and 'equity'. You must measure, track and reward performance. You must also be fair and seen to be fair. Only can you get things going.... simply because you can't do this alone. However, please dont try to be 'one of the men' and seek affection / liking from your men, you are not and will never be. What you should strive for is to demonstrate to your men that you is strong leadership, competence, good in problem-solving / resolving issues & conflicts and fairness and sincerity man... that is what your men will look up to. It will be a rather lonesome experience but you owe this to your men.

I can write on and on about this and I certainly wished on hindsight that OCS had taught me to manage a MT Company better - though I did like learning the finer art of infantry combat. Look at who are the key stakeholders, the key processes involved, what the problems are and how best these can be tackled. Get support from your Log Officer and even your Commmander - present to them - highlight what the issues are and how you plan to improve the situation.

I too despaired at being a MTO... MTOs then and perhaps now are considered the bottom rung of the OCS cohort - not suitable for Combat or Instructional appointments... And I landed up with this appointment even though as i was ranked around 50% percentile of my cohort... The rest of my peers whom I thought were ranked worst got comparably cushy jobs as Brigade staff officers.

BUT...

Don't give up and get as much out of this experience as you can - you are an officer of the Singapore Armed Forces. The estab appointment you are holding... if you can bothered to check is that of a regular Captain (not a NS 2LT)...

You can learn and benefit from this experience much more than many of your peers. Treat this as a on-the-job managament training and a challenge to do the best that you can. On reflection, I can't say that my MT Line was great or people loved me but I can sincerely say that I did my best and I'm the better for it... and it has been more than 10 years ago for me...

Don't call this a shitty job because you will feel that way eventually.

Think positively in terms of what you can contribute and make changes that benefit the NS experience of your soldiers and be passionate and sincere about what you are trying to achieve.

When you walk out of the gates of your camp on ORD date... at least you can tell yourself that "I didnt waste mine and everyone who serve under me's fucking time in that 1 year. I tried my best."

Stop griping and get to work. No one will help you shape the future, only YOU can.

playtime said...

Kureshi...I did my MTO stint more than 10 years ago in a Gds Batt. And can honestly say that some in my cohort who converted to company PCs after ROD found it less stressful, something most PCs couldnt believe but many battalion MTOs would know better.

In terms of stress and shit for NSF officers, probably only the QM comes close.

IMO, the biggest headache of an MTO is not the men, its "senior management". The office politics I saw was incredible, being a NSF LTA in a room of regular CPTs and MAJs means you're a sitting duck if your S4 is weak, something I learnt the hard way.

During my stint, I had my fair share of driver problems, but happily nothing like my sister Batts, they had drugs, thief, missing tonner (found by TP later), ammo found in bunk etc.. but incredibly, I had an alcoholic MT SGT who got the job only because the previous one had to go due to major store mismanagement. I hope your SGT is a good man, it can make or break your MTL.

Obviously theres alot more, but a good/competent SGT and S4 is half the battle won.

Wonder if there are anymore MTOs around, takes one to know one.

playtime said...

Kureshi...I did my MTO stint more than 10 years ago in a Gds Batt. And can honestly say that some in my cohort who converted to company PCs after ROD found it less stressful, something most PCs couldnt believe but many battalion MTOs would know better.

In terms of stress and shit for NSF officers, probably only the QM comes close.

IMO, the biggest headache of an MTO is not the men, its "senior management". The office politics I saw was incredible, being a NSF LTA in a room of regular CPTs and MAJs means you're a sitting duck if your S4 is weak, something I learnt the hard way.

During my stint, I had my fair share of driver problems, but happily nothing like my sister Batts, they had drugs, thief, missing tonner (found by TP later), ammo found in bunk etc.. but incredibly, I had an alcoholic MT SGT who got the job only because the previous one had to go due to major store mismanagement. I hope your SGT is a good man, it can make or break your MTL.

Obviously theres alot more, but a good/competent SGT and S4 is half the battle won.

Wonder if there are anymore MTOs around, takes one to know one.