Where Did "The Sarge-at-Large" Name Come From?
Another frequently-asked question is where the name or idea for "The Sarge-at-Large" come from. The Sarge replies:
"While I was assigned to the 249th Medical Detachment (Supply) at Fort Meade, MD, it was discovered during a routine records check that all soldiers in MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) 42E (Optical Laboratory Specialist) in the rank of Specialist Five (that would have been me) were inexplicably laterally appointed as hard-stripe Sergeants.
"Now there was no difference in pay, but as a hard-stripe Sergeant (Specialists in the same pay grade were considered "soft-stripes"), I was suddenly imbued with "command authority." Which meant the battalion had one more sergeant to put into a leadership position -- and I quickly found myself supervising details, an arrangement I referred to as being the "Sergeant-at-Large" (much the same as being a "Minister-Without-Portfolio" or "Member-at-Large"). It was either that, or just come out and tell people that I was supervising lawn-mowing, weed-whacking, and snow-removal details. Naturally, this term eventually reached the more diminutive (and naturally rhyming) form: "Sarge-at-Large."
"Fortunately, three months later, the Army realized the error -- it wanted to make all 42C (Parachute Packer) Specialist Five's hard-stripe Sergeants. And just as quickly as they had been slapped on my collar, they disappeared again -- and I was a "soft-striper" once more. Which was probably a good thing -- I was starting to annoy the more senior sergeants with my concepts of management and soldier care, which were progressive for the time -- although I had absolutely NO problem with getting people to work for me.
"Shortly after I left the Active Army in 1980 and before my enlisting with the National Guard in 1989, the Army chucked most all of the 'Specialist' grades into the proverbial buttcan and made everyone in enlisted pay grades E-5 and up into the appropriate Sergeant rank: Specialist 5's became Sergeants, Specialist 6's became Staff Sergeants, Specialist 7's became Sergeants First Class, etc.
"When it became necessary to consider a professional name for my growing radio product, it became very apparent that my given name was too formal for the type of show I do and the shorter version of my first name -- Tom -- likewise failed to express the unique nature of the show I do. 'The Sarge-at-Large' seemed a natural choice for the zany (I prefer to call it 'eclectic') kind of show I do.
"But it wasn't enough -- the more accurately descriptive 'Extremely Deranged' was added almost immediately.
"And now you know the story behind:
Tom, the Extremely Deranged Sarge-at-Large
"Thanks for asking!"