The Empty Office
Slice Of Life
By Sheri de Grom
Three decades ago I hired into the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Ord, CA. I didn’t know it at the time, but my career had just started. I’d accidentally fallen into a position with the federal government that allowed me to have a fulfilling professional life.
That first day on the new job was unlike any I’d ever experienced. The senior non-commissioned officer in-charge (NCOIC) introduced me around and showed me to my new office. It was nearly empty!
The NCOIC’s parting words were, “If you need anything, let me know.”
What was this? A nightmare or a bad joke? My office consisted of a desk chair, the regulation black army telephone and a familiar thick black binder. This particular binder held the federal regulations I would use each and every day.
This had to be a joke, but I wasn’t amused. I went in search of the NCOIC but he was no-where to be found and as far as I could tell, no one knew when he’d return. Standard protocol required the NCOIC to have my office ready for occupancy before I arrived.
I’d worked at three other large organizations on Fort Ord before arriving at the Staff Judge Advocate and had seen and heard tales regarding the acquisition of items and how they could be obtained without going through regulatory channels. I immediately set to work by phoning a number of individuals for whom I’d previously done favors. I called in markers and created new ones by the dozens.
By the end of my second day in my new office, it was completely furnished and it was beautiful. No one would recognize it as a standard issue regulation military office. I even exchanged the original office chair for a plush executive chair from a former boss.
It became a standing joke that I had nicer digs than the colonel for whom I now worked. I offered to barter a newly-decorated office for him but he always laughed and said, “The price would be too high!”
I miss those days at Fort Ord, CA, at the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. Our building is gone now, but when it was there, I liked to say, “Mine is the corner office, the one right next to the back door.”