He Said, She Said: What to do about missing, stolen canteen cup Print E-mail
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
ImageBy Shaun and Pamela Collins
Special to GUIDON
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I’m a Soldier here, and like everyone else, we have to sign for a lot of personal equipment. After a recent field trip, my buddy came up missing a canteen cup. We both searched for it, and he claims he can’t remember using it, so he figures he’s on the hook for a canteen cup.
Later, a lieutenant in our unit was cleaning up some of his gear and getting ready to clear the company. Odd as it was, he now had two canteen cups. Neither my buddy nor I wanted to accuse him of taking my buddy’s canteen cup, but the lieutenant would have been in the right place and at the right time to take it. While this particular lieutenant is leaving, we don’t want to make waves. Any idea on how to handle this?

HE SAID: I see no indication that the lieutenant “stole” the canteen cup. If he was in the right place at the right time for him to have come into the possession of your friend’s canteen cup, it is most likely that he came to be in possession of it by accident.
 If he openly had two canteen cups, it would make sense that he is aware that he may have grabbed someone else’s and is waiting for someone to let him know that theirs is missing.
Your friend doesn’t even have to directly address the issue with the lieutenant. He could simply ask the platoon sergeant in front of him if anyone has turned in an extra canteen cup, as his is missing subsequent to the field problem.
Should the lieutenant not believe his extra canteen cup belongs to your friend or he keeps two for a reason, your friend can go to a local pawn shop or Army surplus store and get one for a very small price; or when he clears, he can pay the Army for it.

SHE SAID: I call these “live and learn moments.” There are instances where we need to rock the boat — make sure that justice is served, but in certain circumstances, where you aren’t sure, its better to take what you can from this particular incident, and use it as a learning tool for yourself, your peers and your subordinates.
I have had times where people have taken advantage of my good nature or naiveté.
Paying ahead of time for a service that was shoddy, leaving an expensive toy behind to a fellow officer who promised to send me a check and then PCSd to Korea, leaving sensitive items unsecured in a relative’s house, only to find it stolen. Since you cannot be sure, saying something would result in what I would think would be a pretty predictable outcome — he will deny it, and there will be bad blood between you and him, and whoever his friends are that were left behind.
Here is my suggestion — mark and secure all your property. If it’s government property, do so discretely. Advise your peers and subordinates to do the same.
I see nothing excusable about stealing another’s property, but it happens; particularly if it is made so easily available to someone who is accountable for something they lost.
They may rationalize the theft by telling themselves that since someone “took” theirs, its only right that they do the same and “even the score.” Yes, its irrational, but it helps the thief sleep at night. That’s his ethics, not yours. And when all is said and done, being able to live with your own actions is more important than evening the score.

(Editor’s note: Shaun and Pamela Collins were both career Soldiers with a combined history of military service spanning over a half of a century. They have been where you are, so if you are facing a difficult situation, ask them. Send your question to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it This column and other original content from Mr. and Mrs. Collins can be found at http://militarysuccessnetwork.com. The opinions expressed are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office or the GUIDON.)
Last Updated ( Thursday, 29 September 2016 )