67. Dead Man Walking

August- October 2018

After losing respect for management and almost being demoted over the whims of Mo and Ed (or as I liked to call them Popeye and Bluto), I returned to the classroom for the last six weeks of my tenure working for Blue Force.

What happened was that The Royal Saudi Air Force decided on a whim was to send two teachers’ home to “clean up their look”. Mike and Brian were sent home with the orders to cut their hair and be more presentable. I was sent to cover Brian’s classes for several days until he returned to the base.

When we got back from a two-week break, we were once again short staffed, so I had to cover a teacher’s class who was arriving late. During the mid day break, I was told to see Ed and Mo.

We had a special class of high achievers that RSAF wanted to make sure breezed through the program before taking a special exam called the ECL which is an exam where if cadets scored a 45 or higher, they can go to Texas to study to become airplane mechanics. The Major had a special interest in the class because he knew several of the cadets personally.

We had a teacher in the class named Larry who I worked with in South Korea previously before coming to the Middle East in 2014. I was asked/told/ sent to take care of the class and that RSAF and the Major handpicked me to go teach the class. Allegedly, the class complained about Larry, but he handled it with a lot of class and gave me a rundown on what he did with them. I ended up taking over the class.

I ended up taking the class for six weeks and really enjoyed it. I was cycled back into the classroom and how it started was how it ended: Teaching well and getting the cadets to perform. I was told that this was temporary thing and that Mo and Ed would cycle me out, but it never happened.

What happened was while I was in class, Popeye and Bluto decided to handpick their favorite teachers to be Instructor Supervisors in training. It was a crock. They selected their friends to help. One was a man named Don who I had the odd run in with and I never understood why he was picked. He made a lot of mistakes in his folders that I would have to correct and was infamous for having a classroom full of trash and rubbish. He was a decent person, but I thought he was a poor choice and he seemed overwhelmed at first with the work.

They also selected a teacher that was absent frequently and another who was aloof and openingly admitted that he doesn’t check email or use his account. I would see him at the gym frequently and he was a decent person, but he came across as someone who doesn’t care.

The only one that they picked that I agreed with was a man named Seth who was a solid teacher with a strong work ethic. He knew what he was doing and had a strong work ethic.

I may be dumb but I ain’t stupid. Management was handpicking their guys so they could eventually replace me. I didn’t care anymore. I already didn’t respect Mo, Ed and Les and they could run the program however they wished.

One cycle became two which ended up three. I spent a total of nine weeks in the classroom and it was a breeze. I was neighbors with my team, and they were great. I enjoyed conversing with Ernie, Carl, Mike, Greg, Lorenzo, Tom and Ali. I enjoyed teaching the high achieving cadets and it felt good to know that I can go back into the classroom and do a great job.

What frustrated me was I never got a token handshake or a pat on the back from management for putting out a fire and getting everyone to pass with mid 80’s or above. What I got was management scheming to put me out to pasture like Old Yellar being shot in the head by Travis outside the barn. This time it would end up being Les and Mo putting the bullet in the back of my head.

I could read the tea leaves. Mo had a hit list and he wanted his people. Les was aloof and would be told what was going on by Ed. Ed would do the grunt work that Mo should be doing but would bury me in paperwork including a spat him and I had over the summer when he didn’t cycle out a teacher named Julian on his last day when he had substitutes to do that. He just wanted to be a dick and I told him that.

I also mocked Ed in early September in front of a group from Texas when he made some corny joke that his position is the Deputy Academic Director and he said he was the “DAD” of the program and I piped up that he is “like a dad that plays favorites with staff and if he doesn’t like you, he will punish you like a dad”. I was frustrated because he dropped my correspondence to Blue Force which caused me name to be a part of court proceedings between Chenega and Blue Force which was another low blow that he did. He was like a dad and I was his rebellious, unlikable son. Ed’s version of the belt was paperwork to set up my demise.

I was a dead man walking and knew it.

I had a vocal minority of teachers who hated me because they couldn’t cut it in the classroom.

It was coming from all sides.

Things came to a head after being constantly harassed by Ed and Mo when I filed a complaint with the Corporate Office and ended up having a meeting with Rob Young and Mo over a conference call in mid September.

I told Rob Mo’s line about his team moving forward. Mo’s face went ashen and he openly lied. I told Rob about the Linked In and how unprofessional it was to not be given a head’s up. Rob lied and said it didn’t come from Ed but some “IT guy” which was bullshit. I told Rob about the constant harassment from our dynamic duo and he shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t care.

I asked him if he wanted me gone and he said no. That was a lie because Ed admitted to me that Rob wanted me gone back in the late spring.

The whole conference was a farce and a waste of time.

I remember Mo/Ed and I having a conference in my classroom one September morning and they asked me to stay with the class until they passed the ECL. They also told me that they had a list of five teachers that they planned on getting out of the program.

I do remember at the end of one working day when the Major came up to me and thanked me by shaking my hand. He appreciated what I was doing for the cadets and told me he thought highly of me, but this is an issue between Blue Force management and me and that he couldn’t intervene.

We had a new teacher that we hired, and I was supposed to babysit and observe him for a cycle before he went to Texas for training. I can remember offering him a textbook to look over for the next cycle over the weekend to be prepared for the next cycle which would start on Sunday. He refused and wasn’t interested. Do you know who didn’t show up on Sunday? The new guy. Do you know who had to teach another class of cadets? Me.

I gave my high achieving class to a great teacher and requested the new guy to have a repeater class with me in to help.

I remember my last day in the classroom. The cadets didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be there as well, and we butted heads. A cadet was acting up, so I took his book and threw it out of the classroom into the main hallway. I embarrassed him which was wrong of me.

I threw it because I wanted to throw my career away.

Why care about the job and do your best when a lot of people don’t while Les and Blue Force turn a blind eye to bullshit?

A teacher can take 30 plus sick days and management doesn’t do anything. A teacher can be aloof and not give a shit about his classes and management doesn’t do anything. Teachers can fight other teachers and management doesn’t do anything. We can have incompetent teachers who ruin classes, but management doesn’t want to do anything. A teacher can secretly record a previous Deputy Academic Director slag off in a classroom to staff and management doesn’t do anything. (I will talk about this in a later blog).

Why work for a company that wants me gone?

Management wanted their yes men and wanted me gone so I gave them the opportunity.

I was fired on the 9th of October. It was a relief and I was happy to leave. I never got my bonus or plane ticket. All I got was Mo rolling his eyes at the mention of my name. Management never had the courtesy to inform the staff, but they knew quickly that I was gone.

Mo bullshitted me one more time after getting the runaround that day. I was supposed to meet hm and Les at 1pm.

Then it was pushed to 3.

Finally, at 7.

I knew I was being canned but the comedy show continues when Mo asks me “Who did you piss off this time?” He and Les decided to can me not the Major and hatched it from the beginning. There were no handshakes or a token remark of their appreciation for my hard work for nearly three years.

I was gone just like that.

64. The Day I Hated My Job (Part 1)

July 2018

For the past several months, my colleagues and I were left in a lurch in Saudi Arabia. Blue Force’s contract was up in November of 2018 and it was up for bidding by other companies. Information was scarce so rumours were running rampant among teachers and staff.

Our Dear Leader Les who was the Project Manager was keeping things close to his vest. I was told in confidence that Blue Force planned on not offering raises to stay, cut cars from all teachers except for management and keep our current digs at the compound in Al Khobar.

Cutting cars and only having vehicles for management such as myself would go over like a fart in church. Fringe benefits like that would create friction between teachers and management. To me, it sounded like Blue Force wanted to tighten up the budget so they can keep most of the profits and slash our meager benefits package similar to Jason Vorhees at a teenage party.

Over the previous two years, our gas vouchers were slashed as well as cell phone money. Blue Force claimed that they over budgeted, but I thought it was false. I would be vocal in meetings that most of the money being wasted was on hiring teachers who couldn’t teach in our program. We spent on average about 25 thousand dollars to bring in teachers and we were constantly short staffed due to people leaving. Blue Force was doing a terrible job recruiting/ investigating teaches to see if they were a good fit for our program. They would hire pretty much anyone who met the minimum requirements.

The previous fall, I told Blue Force management in front of all staff at a meeting that if they were to raise the salaries and offer 3-5 percent raises, it would keep the good teachers who were our nucleus. We had a private dinner with Blue Force that night and I didn’t back down from that request.

Anyways, the popular rumour on base was that Blue Force was going to lose the contract due to a myriad of factors. A competing bid from another company had been reaching out to teachers to screen and interview them for the next contract which would commence in November. I found out after I left that the company that everyone thought would win offered a fair contract to all staff.

Teachers would keep their cars, salaries and fringe benefits would improve with the company putting in people who had an understanding of ESL and teaching as opposed to Blue Force putting in ex Marines in their early sixties who would use profanity, leave early and not have a clue on how things run in a classroom.

When I got to work at 5am in late July, my phone started buzzing from my team of teachers. I went into a classroom and saw that the U.S. Government announced that Blue Force lost the contract and that another company named Chenega won.

Teachers were shocked because a lot of us didn’t expect that to happen.

Chenega and another third party named MLS would feed us teachers and there was a ratio of teachers we had to employ from each. I think we needed to have at least 10-12 slots for Chenega and 8-10 for MLS.

When Mo Melotti, our newly minted Deputy Academic Director arrived, I told him the news. He was as surprised as anybody. For the previous six weeks, I would update him on what I was hearing through different channels on who was bidding on our contract (4 companies), interviews that were being held including with me and other odds and ends. Mo didn’t have a clue on what was going on and would constantly ask me for updates.

Once I told Mo the news, I saw the most pathetic display of leadership that made me realize that after 26 months of working for Blue Force and after a year as an Instructor Supervisor that maybe I should consider a new job somewhere else.

He started begging teachers who were coming into the office to put a good word in for him if they were Chenega employees.

It was awful.

The way I saw it was this: Chenega could find out if I was suitable in my role, demote me to go back into the classroom as a teacher in which I exceled or thanked me for my time here and ask me to leave. I wasn’t going to beg for my job. I take a lot of pride in the many hats I wear and I wasn’t going to beg to keep my job.

I was livid when I saw Mo ask each teacher who came in during breaks to grab their folders to work on them as a part of their weekly duties. He asked several teachers and it was extremely uncomfortable. He would ask if they were Chenega employees and some were. He would ask/request them to put in a good word for him.

In his five months as Deputy Academic Director, Mo would rarely speak at all hands meetings with everyone and hide out in the corner, not attend team meetings to introduce himself or get feedback on how Instructor Supervisors were handling their teams like everyone who previously held his position and was aloof to most of the staff except for the teachers he personally hired. There were several teachers who worked with him in the past and he had a bit of a bad rep for cronyism and for what I mentioned previously.

As a side note, our Project Manager Les showed up at 6:30am after first period so I went into his office to ask him if he had heard the news. He said he hadn’t so I told him.

He proceeded to immediately leave his office for the day and return to the compound probably to speak to Blue Force offices in Virginia.

I asked him if he was going to hold a brief all hands meeting or send out a memo and he refused.

For the whole day, I went to each teacher in my building and spoke to them throughout the day. Some were happy while others were shocked but everyone was surprised at Mo and Les. Mo could have had some dignity and not beg people to help him stay on and Les could have been a real leader and just sent out a memo. Our leaders at the top of the food chain showed their true colors that day.

That was the day that I hated my job.

63. Murr Men Can’t Swim.

November 2018

If you have read all of my blogs thus far, you know that this past summer, I attempted to learn how to scuba dive and failed miserably. Since I was a young Murr Man, I had a hard time swimming and being confrontable in the water. I don’t like putting my head under water and I swim like an elephant fighting a crocodile in the water.

During my vacation at Hadd Yuan Island in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, I get up at sunrise and head to the beach to frolic in the water. Recently, the waves have been quite big and they bowl over people in the ocean.

I had a great morning. I filed a report to the Department of Labor concerning my dismissal at Blue Force, I had four different job opportunities get back to me via email and I have been getting quite tanned on the beach. In other words, it was a perfect morning.

After breakfast, I went to the other end of the beach and there were two people lying out on the beach enjoying the rays. I decided to step into the ocean and noticed right away that the waves were coming in hard and often. I would jump into them and get knocked down each time.

After getting bowled over four times by the waves while slowly walking and swimming out, I noticed that I was up to my neck in the water. I swam out a few feet and then chaos broke loose.

I turned around and tried to swim back to shore but a rip tide pulled me out. It felt like I was swimming on a treadmill and I was static. The waves were coming in hard and were knocking me deep into the water. I panicked and tried to swim back but kept being pulled out.

Every time I made some ground, I would be pulled back out and the waves would crash into me. This went on for about twenty minutes and I was wearing out. When the seventh wave knocked me underwater, I decided to try and yell for help. However, when my head got back above water, another wave hit me and my mouth was full of salty water.

I was fucked.

I thought that I was going to drown and eventually my lifeless body would be sent back to shore by the tidal waves.

After thrashing and bobbing in the water, I decided to change tactics.
I was going to use The Force.

I put my arm out and let the waves hit me.

The waves hit me and I started moving back to the shore. Three of them hit me in a row and I made some traction. Eventually I was able to get to the beach close enough to paddle my way to the rocks. With one last wave, I was driven to these giant rocks on the beach.

With a sense of relief, I lied on top of a rock like a Kimono Dragoon drying out and lied there for several minutes. I got my breathing back to normal but my heart was racing. I trudged back to my bungalow and crashed for a few hours because I was sapped of energy.

The whole incident occurred over a thirty-minute span but it felt like a couple of hours. I learned my lesson. Don’t go out when the tide is violent and the waves are huge.

I guess Murr Men can’t swim.