I almost missed my husband’s promotion. And I earned his whole unit a Range Violation Citation.
When a military service member re-enlists or is promoted, he or she can choose the location of the ceremony. Most of the time they choose something ‘normal,’ like the parking lot right outside their unit’s building. But some service members have pushed the limits to find unique locations to re-enlist or be promoted. While he was deployed to Iraq, my husband attended a promotion ceremony at King Nebuchadnezzar’s ancient palace in Babylon. He has seen people re-enlist inside a helicopter, while propelling down a tower, on top of an aircraft display model, and while hanging by one arm on the Obstacle Course.
But my favorite promotion was in the field, at a training range. It was also the only one where I got an entire unit in trouble!
My husband picked up his newest rank while his unit was training for a deployment. The training was on base not far from where we live. Because they were sleeping in the field, he did not plan to be home for a week. He was eager to be pinned with the new rank and be addressed by the title he had earned, so he wanted to do the promotion ceremony as soon as possible. I had missed most of his other promotions, which happened during deployments. So I was really looking forward to attending this one and being able to pin on his new rank. Our compromise: he would be promoted in the field, and I could drive to the training area to meet him for the ceremony!
It would have been a good plan except that:
1) I did not know how to get to his training area, and
2) I did not know it is illegal to park a civilian vehicle in an active training area.
So I drove my mini-van, with 2 of my 4 kids, down the long, empty stretch of the training side of base. I had miscalculated how long that road was, so I was running late. I finally saw my husband waiting for me near the range entrance, with his rifle slung over his shoulder. “Come on,” he gestured, “the whole Company has halted the training operation waiting for you to get here!”
Feeling a little bit embarrassed but also a little bit important, I parked my minivan near the entrance, by some Humvees. “Is this ok?” I asked my husband. He was already hurrying up the hill towards the training area. So I got the kids out and followed him. As I looked at the mountains that surrounded us and walked through the dirt and dead grass, I wondered if perhaps I had overdressed. Everyone else was sunburned and dusty. I was wearing a sundress and heels.
I had never been to an active training area before. There were tanks, Humvees, and tents set up to form the COC (Combat Operations Center.) The promotion ceremony is very formal: the promotion announcement is read aloud, and all the service members stand at attention. When it was time to pin on the new rank, the CO (Commanding Officer) called me forward and invited me to pin the metal rank insignia onto my husband’s uniform collar. I started to place the new rank in the old holes, but realized I had to move it up to adjust for the extra rocker on the bottom! It was a funny and proud moment.
Afterwards, the command leadership congratulated him and shook my hand. I was so happy to participate in his promotion ceremony and share that proud moment with him. But they had to get back to training, so after a few minutes I walked back to my car.
Later, we discovered that the Range Safety Officer had stopped by. He saw a civilian minivan (mine) parked near military equipment in an active training area, and wrote a Range Violation Citation to the entire unit. The CO said, “I’ll take a range violation any day of the week, if it means that families can be involved in a field promotion. There is nothing like being promoted in the field, and we want the families to participate in that if they are able.”
But now, whenever he sees me, my husband’s boss smiles a little and says, “You’re the one that got us a range citation!”