Life Lessons and Baked Beans

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Requirement:  Talk about a time you faced a specific challenge, whether in business or in daily life. What was the challenge? How did you handle it? What lesson(s) did you learn from it?

Response:  I was serving in Saudi for Desert Shield/Storm and we had these little space heaters that we carried around because it’s VERY cold in the desert at night. Every once in a while someone would get a care package that had pork’n beans or baked beans or some other canned food in it. At night they’d sit the OPENED can on top of the heater to get warm then to eat.  This was REALLY a luxury and something that was looked forward to.

I had this Sergeant named Montgomery and we called him Sergeant Monty. He’s REALLY muscular and about 5’6″. He was like Elmer Fudd (yeah I’m telling my age) in that his R’s sounded like W’s. My nickname in the military was Rob (long story but most army stories are). So… he called me Wob. We were really cool though and I was a guy who knew how to ‘get’ stuff. So I had extra everything. Extra gas mask filters, extra MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear, extra food… whatever… you name it. Because he was my squad leader… he knew that when he needed something in a pinch I could get it.

One night after we’d been pretty close to some action earlier that day we were settling down to get some sleep. Monty decides to put an unopened can of pork’n beans on top of the space heater KNOWING that we’re not supposed to do that. We talk for a minute… shoot the breeze… laugh at the people whose responsibility it is to burn the shit tonight… (that duty SUCKS by the way) then all is quiet.

4 hours later…

SSSSSS

SSSSSS

SSSSSS

SSSSSS!

BANG!

PANDALERIUM! It’s madness! Straight crazy! Our nerves are on edge anyway because it’s the middle of a damn war. Someone yells MOPP!!! Which signals us to get our gas masks on and biological weapons gear in place. Someone runs into the tent with their weapon drawn ready to fire. People are yelling. Normally unflappable people are very VERY tense. It’s really a tense situation.  I’ve got my gas mask in hand already and am trying to get it on along with the rest of the MOPP gear. I’m wondering whether i’m going to die or not. I think about my parents and grandparents.  I think about what to do next.  Things slow down.

No one knows what’s happening…. then LOUD as hell I hear…

Wob! Wob! I been hit! I been hit!

Then I hear nothing but my own labored breathing. No voices, no nothing and I look to see what is going, after I have on my gas mask of course, and I see that the unopened can of beans has exploded and Sgt. Monty is standing covered in these hot assed beans.

THEN he says..

IT’S CHEMICAL! IT’S BURNING!!

THAT’S when the wheels fell off. No one could stop laughing. We’re all in a tent in the middle of the freaking desert. A squad leader is covered in dirt and baked beans. We think that the enemy has attacked us. People have weapons drawn. Gas Masks on. Half dressed. It was tense… It was CRAZY! We were extremely relieved. We cracked up at that for HOURS! It became the catch phrase… Wob! Wob! I been hit! I been hit! Had t-shirts made when we got back to the world and everything.  Whew!

Recap:

What was the challenge?  In actuality the challenge was how to defend yourself against an attack by baked beans though we didn’t know it at the time.  The challenge in the midst of the fracas was how to respond in the face of presumable certain death by chemical attack in the midst of a war.

How did you handle it?   Much of the handling of the situation actually came BEFORE the challenge which is what often happens in life.  Proper training, proper equipment and the proper mentality help once you’re in the middle of crap hitting the fan.

What lesson(s) did you learn from it?  If you have 10 seconds to act, think for 9.  DO NOT place unopened canned goods on space heaters before going to sleep.

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Sekou McHenry is the CEO of DIRM Corp, a web design, graphic design and SEO firm. He also makes a mean gumbo. From scratch... Blindfolded.

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