To continue the saga of my missing Leave and Earning Statements (LES's), before leaving California and heading to my next duty station, I had the personnelmen show me the regulations which would govern my travel and travel pay while attending a Pressure-Fired Boiler operator school in Great Lakes, IL.
I arrive in what was the coldest February on record! (just a side note to the story)
School was fine -- weather could have been much better -- but all in all, things were good.
The first payday occurs and we receive our checks. Mine is decidedly a little short by my calculations so I go to see my friendly (I use that term SOOOOOOO loosely) pay masters. I explained my situation and was promptly told there wasn't a mistake and that was that. DISMISSED, ENSIGN!
Well, I wasn't sure what to do. From my understanding of the pay rules (and I will admit at this point I had been commissioned all of 9 months), I was being shorted by a great deal of money. So, as I was leaving the building, I got the bright idea to visit the people who held my personnel record. Maybe they could help me battle the evil -- PAY MASTER! (I must admit here as well, I really didn't think they were evil, just not being helpful)
Ok, I walked into their office AND they listened to my explanation and actually began attempting to help me find the answer to my dilemma. But they were not PAY MASTERS so our search was not going well.
Just then, the Master Chief of the Command walked through the office. The people helping me search asked him to join. Master Chief looked at me (a brand new ensign -- 9 months out of the the Naval Academy) and said, "Sir, do you think you are right?"
I looked at Master Chief and with all the confidence I could muster stated, "Master Chief, I know I am right."
"Good enough for me!" Master Chief picked up the phone and dialed the pay masters. He told them he was just talking to Ensign Schiffman. "Oh, so you know his situation. Well, you need to bring me the book and prove it to me!" CLICK! Master Chief hung up.
He hadn't even told the pay masters where he was in the building. How were they going to find us? Master Chief calmly said, "They will have to search for us, but they will find us, sir."
We chatted about how school was going and the weather and such for 15 minutes until we were found by the pay masters.
Master Chief looked at them and said, "Show me and Ensign Schiffman why you think you are right."
The pay master proudly pointed at a chart in the massive book they had brought with them. Master Chief and I looked at the page. Master Chief said, "Are we good here, sir?"
"No, Master Chief. If I understand the chart, this is an if/then chart. AND I am not that if."
"Yes, you are!", shouted the pay master.
"No, I am not. I am not sure what category I am. But that if doesn't apply to me."
The record keepers bring my record and show the pay masters my orders. I am NOT what is described in the "if" being used.
I looked at all of them and said, "If you find the 'if' which applies to my situation, I will accept whatever 'then' we find."
The Pay Masters search frantically. They find the appropriate "if"..........
Master Chief looked at them and said, "When should Ensign Schiffman return to get the rest of the pay owed him?"
This is Friday at 5pm of a three day weekend.
"Tuesday would be good. Perhaps after he is done with school."
The story doesn't end there. So, forgive me if I continue.
On Tuesday I return to the Pay Masters. Master Chief asked me to get him when I arrived so he could make sure all was well with my pay. I did as instructed and we went to get my check.
As I received it, I must have had a look of disbelief or confusion on my face.
"What is wrong, sir? Is it still not correct?"
"Master Chief, I don't mean to be a pain, but this figure is MUCH more than I expected. I don't want to be overpaid either."
Master Chief called the head pay master over to explain. It seems the pay masters didn't take kindly to being shown up by a brand new ensign so they AUDITED my pay record from day one to the present. AND discovered after only 9 months of commissioned service, I was underpaid! So, they reluctantly disbursed what I was owed.
Smiling. I thanked them for their efforts.
I will never forget Master Chief's question. It was simple and to the point. Sir, do you think you are right? He just wanted to know if I believed what I thought to be true. When I was, it was good enough for him to find the correct answer. To right the wrong I felt was being done.
And I will never forget what Master Chief said when we found out I was underpaid and that all was right with the world and I was thanking him for his belief in me.
"Sir, no need to thank me. It is our job to make sure these things are right so you can concentrate on bigger thoughts of leading Sailors."
Thanks Master Chief for the lesson. Thanks for believing in me.