"Nick," he said softly. I was amazed that this utterance affected me as much as it did. When you are always referred to by your last name, being addressed by your first can have a profound effect. "You can do that with everyone else, but I'm here to help you. I'm doing this because, if you're like this in the game, how do you expect to ever hold down a position when you tell your boss how to do his job? You're a good kid, and the work you've done is great, but you can't keep letting this happen. Let's look at some of your positives, shall we?" He began to list off the merits that I had earned, the few matches in which I made a difference during a round. It was sobering because I didn't think anyone really noticed my efforts.
I changed under Joseph's mentorship. A year passed, and I learned how to deal with leadership problems. I slowly started to apply things that the unit taught to my daily life: speaking with authority figures, keeping a strict schedule, respect even in the face of stupidity and neglect. These sorts of things are common sense to some, but I learned them in the 75th Ranger.
There were also skills that could only be hammered into my personality over numerous realism weekends, attempting to keep a team of twelve jittery sixteen-year-olds in line, all while trying to keep a fun and healthy environment. We may play soldier, but if you roleplay the maniac drill sergeant too harshly, you can quickly become like the one guy at the weekly D&D game who takes it too far.
Eventually, I was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. In that position, my superiors asked me to deal with Private Johnson, who had been intimidating others and undermining them on the battlefield. I found Johnson in a channel with some other NCOs. I asked if I could talk to him privately, and set up a secure channel.
After he asked why he was needed, I began my metaphysical assault by letting out a disapproving breath. "Private Johnson. I understand that you had some problems during a scrim with a few of the others."
"Not that I remember, Sarge," he said quickly. It seemed that he was prepared for this conversation.
"Don't give me that. I've got six PM's sent within 20 minutes about it. All the same story. You walked in and started assaulting these guys with insults and sarcasm. They told you what to do. They told you how to do it, and you ignored it all. Seriously, Johnson, what the fuck were you thinking?"
The channel was quiet. I began to wonder if Johnson had left. I knew that I had stepped over my bounds and reprised my role as the mean NCO, the one people had whispered about. Then he responded:
"Sarge, I'm sorry. I've just been going through a rough patch right now. The rest of the guys just weren't playing. They were talking and messing around and not even trying."