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- Secretary Austin awarded new “Sick Call Ranger” tab
Secretary Austin awarded new “Sick Call Ranger” tab
Spec 4: "No phase recycles, my man just went straight through."
“Fellas, you go on ahead, I’m gonna swing by medical and let them look at my foot.”
WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER…SORRY, SAN JUAN, PUERTO…UH NOPE, ZOOM MEETING ID 394297…F*CK IT, WHO KNOWS—In a private ceremony at an undisclosed location President Biden presented Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin with a new award created especially for him: the Sick Call Ranger tab.
“We all know soldiers love their tabs, and this week Lloyd went so far beyond the standard that I felt compelled to create a new honor just for the occasion,” stated Biden. “With a background of crumpled Kleenexes and a border of embroidered gold bricks, the Sick Call Ranger tab will only be awarded to those who demonstrate superlative skill in shamming their duties. Lloyd’s set the bar high as the first recipient of this honor.”
Initial reports claimed that Secretary Austin had been hospitalized for a week due to complications following surgery and just made an “oopsie” in not telling anyone else in the executive branch. Yet as each day passed, new details emerged highlighting the elaborate nature of Austin’s scheme.
“Frankly, I was a little suspicious when the Secretary came in one morning and handed me a no-stand LIMDU chit signed by an external provider just before the Army-Navy game,” said Chief of Staff Kelly Magsamen. “It was entirely unnecessary, but I just assumed that after 40 years it was a habit he couldn’t break. We all know there’s no PT test for the SecDef but he always makes a big deal about being exempted every year anyway.”
Further questions arose when it emerged that Secretary Austin was assigned as the duty supernut over New Year’s weekend but, as the weekend approached, became increasingly hard to track down.
“I write the duty schedule for senior DoD staff and I swear to God, the SecDef skates every weekend,” noted Sergeant Major Troy Black, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “A grandkid’s wedding, lap band surgery, therapeutic hot yoga—he is more full of shit than a Dunkin’s toilet after Florida Man had one too many sweet black pepper bacon croissants. I finally guilted him into supernut when I said it was him or General Smith. I told him since Bethesda had just cleared General Smith hot for rack ops he could be the one to tell CMC why he had to spend his first free weekend with Mrs. Smith sitting sober by his phone.”
Yet when the weekend duty brief rolled around, Austin was nowhere to be found. Sergeant Major Black contacted the Secretary’s aide-de-camp, who said he’d seen the Secretary go to medical but lost track of him after that. The duty medic confirmed that she had signed Austin in, but was unaware that the medical officer had given the SecDef SIQ. Regardless, the duty medic said she had notified Austin’s chain of command and assumed the issue was resolved.
When she came back to the office on January 2, Ms. Magsamen said she saw the Secretary’s hat and keys on his desk, so she figured all was well. She was a little puzzled on Wednesday when an email to Austin bounced back with an out-of-office message: “teleworking today, not feeling 100 percent. Concerned in my weakened condition I could take a nasty spill down the Pentagon stairs and subject myself to further absences. Call Kathy for any immediate issues.”
“I thought everything was good after that,” admitted Magsamen. “Lloyd’s smarter than the average general—knows how to set up his own auto-forward and everything. So when I CC’d him on a message that the NSA had intel they wanted to discuss on an HVT in Baghdad, and the next day we droned the guy’s ass, I just assumed Ms. Hicks had taken the meeting.”
Others in the executive branch were equally unaware that anything was amiss. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan noted that Austin was not present at a mid-week meeting, but Magsamen told Sullivan that, “SecDef is working from home.” Sullivan had no reason to question it since Austin’s Microsoft Teams status showed that he was “available.”
It wasn’t until Friday when Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder confessed there was more to the story. “So yeah, the Secretary hasn’t exactly been teleworking this whole time. But, um, he wants me to tell you that this was really just a good-faith effort to connect with our nation’s junior enlisted personnel. After all, it’s a time-honored tradition for the E4 community to use the impenetrable workings of military medical bureaucracy to hide from their bosses.”
“You told us he had a serious surgical procedure, General!”, shouted investigative reporter Jim LaPorta as the Pentagon press room erupted. “What was it, exactly?”
General Ryder stared uncomfortably at the podium for a moment before mumbling, “Call of Duty tournament.”
Journalists and legislators alike demanded further transparency about Secretary Austin’s actual condition. But at the ceremony, President Biden shrugged it off with a laugh. “That’s just Lloyd being Lloyd, he gets up to a little malarkey now and then. And honestly, you folks in the press, we just can’t make you happy, can we? When Lloyd’s in the office, you get mad that we drop Afghans out of the sky like Thanksgiving turkeys. He’s not in the office, it’s all, ‘Ooooh, the Middle East is on fire and global shipping’s going back to the dark ages, someone should be in charge.’ Well, which is it?”
“Now Lloyd, come on over here and let me velcro this on you.” There was an embarrassed silence as those gathered realized that the secretary was not, in fact, in the room. The president was heard whispering “Jesus fucking Christ” as the livestream ended.
As of this writing, it was confirmed that Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks was still performing Austin’s duties from a location code-named the Puertogon, which has excellent wi-fi. She was last seen in a local bar with “Margaritaville” playing softly in the background, whispering “replicate this” into her laptop microphone as she approved drone strikes.
H/T to Brasidas and Dirk Diggler for contributing to this piece.
Kay Too Ess Ohhhhh Finds your excuses vague and unconvincing.
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