Today is my last day at Camp Arifjan. I have been selected to move northward where I would become the Deputy Director, Iraq Communications Commericalization Projects. It's not a promotion.
For the past six months, they -- the command I am a part of -- have known that someone would have to replace the guy currently in the position. The man -- I can't post his name because I don't have permission to do so -- I'll just call him "Ray" -- has been working the role up north for well over a year and it is time for him to go home to Alabama to be with his family and friends.
So who do we get to take Ray's place? A "rotator" -- a person coming over to do his regular military rotation with the Signal Command -- was supposed to. He was all ready, engerized, happy to go up north once he realized what havoc he would be in for if he stayed in Kuwait with the rest of us. He got diverted to Afghanistan, to help and round out a team which needed his skill set. He's doing well there.
Then there was the other guy who showed up just "out of the blue". He wanted to "stop pussyfooting around" and get him to work right away. He got diverted to Afghanistan as well.
It all came to a head when the director of the effort in Iraq simply pleaded with the powers-that-be and said simply and plainly "I cannot go forward and complete this unless I have a deputy up here to assist me. The people I have here are great -- but I need someone I can rely on, someone who can be in charge while I'm at meetings and conferences, and someone who is familar with what's going on up and won't be a hinderance but assistance."
That's how I was selected. Oh, there was a vetting -- it came down to me and another guy from the operations and execution side of the house. But he was not the guy needed to do the job. I was and I knew it.
All that was left was for the general in charge to "bless the movement" and that would be it. The General doesn't know -- maybe he does now, if he reads Gather (*smiling*) -- that I'm the chosen one and that this time tomorrow (depending on what time you read this...accounting for Daylight Savings Time and all *smiling*), I should be at Victory Base, Iraq and getting ready for my first day of work in my new job.
There is STILL that possibility that the General will "cancel it all" at the very last minute. I doubt it. What I think will happen, however, is that he would get extremely mad at those who made the decision to move ME up north...and then say something like "the damage has already been done. Let's see what he can do up there..."
See, the General -- and not those under him -- wants to make that decision so that he can say that "he directed the move". He did in a way -- he told his operations director to "get someone up there to assist Cowell..." which is what happened. But he didn't have his hand on the decision button. I am afraid that some people back here will get scolded really bad about making a decision instead of a recommendation to him.
In the meantime, just about everyone else -- except me -- is looking at this as the equal to my getting out of an aslyum or jail. They are all congradulating me and wishing me well...which makes me feel good but also makes me feel bad for them -- for they are still "stuck here". They don't see it a new challenge -- they see it as my "escape to something which more resembles what we all signed up for."
Then today, while I was sending the last of my things to myself, it all set in. I am going to miss my large room...twice as large as many of the Soldiers will have to live in up north. I am going to miss Sky TV, and their theme song they play as they roll the headlines and show the weather around the world. I am going to definately miss Boomerang, and the cartoons and other shows on that channel. And I'm going to miss watching the NBC and ABC nightly newscasts early in the morning as they are shown live. My clock was set each day for 5am so tha I can turn the TV set on and watch the news programs. And I am going to really miss Gilbert and Andrew at Starbucks. The two baristas knew exactly what I drank -- I never had to order it after the first week being here.
There is no Starbucks up in Iraq. Television will consist of watching the previous day's newscasts, edited by American Forces Network to remove the commercials and some of the stinging commentary about the forces in the middle east. There is no Boomerang -- there should be because even those Soldiers working up there need a good laugh or two or seventeen. Sky TV is replaced by FOX -- and those of you who know me know how I feel about FOX and their television cable coverage. While there will be CNN on the cable up there, I expect to see a lot less of it becaues FOX is shown everywhere -- in the dining halls, in the offices, in the recreation centers. And my room: half of a 40 foot container with a single air conditioner/heater inside.
At least it's March Madness time, so my mind will be off cartoons and concentrating on getting the SEC winner or the Universities of Louisville and Oklahoma playing each other in the Final Four!
I will miss my friends and my co-workers. It's funny how those military folk won't "break starch" enough to let their emotions show. A friend of mine -- a female officer -- who was having a tough time working here -- we would have dinner and I would listen to her complain and bitch and sob and become elated and excited from the day's events. Every once in a while I would offer some suggestion, some advice. A story. We would go to lunch and most evenings to dinner, before returning to the office. Me, to call back home, read and answer personal email, and to post items to Gather; her, to get more work done and to call her sister and maybe not argue or fuss with her. Around this time -- about 10pm -- she would call my secure phone, ask simply "Ready to leave?" and I would confirm that I have done as much as I could. We would walk out to the bus stop and ride the Blue Line back to the concrete temporary buildings -- our homes while here. It never went any further than that, however, until the last night she was in Kuwait. She had to go to a conference in another country and I accompanied her and one of her office mates to the airport to drop her off.
She waited. Said her goodbyes. Then, looking around to see if anyone was paying attention -- they were not -- she hugged me. Tight. She whispered that she would miss me and I needed to take care of myself and she was appreciative of me listening to her. I returned the hug, holding her as tightly as she held me, touching her hair and kissing her forehead.
Almost as quickly as she allowed herself that momment, she popped back into composure, wiped her face with her hand, and said, "Good luck...and if they change their mind, I want you to call me as soon as you can..."
I told her "okay...but I don't think they'll change their minds..." as I walked away.
She started to grab her bags, but then she walked and caught up with me and the driver/officer again and motioned for me to hold off. The officer walked onward to the truck.
"Keep him awake, please, Mike? He's got a briefing in the morning and he needs to get some rest, but he also needs to be awake for the drive back." She paused. She looked at me.
"I'm going to miss you..." she said, before she ran back into the lobby of the airport's waiting area.
"I will miss you too, but I'll be as close as the telephone..." She didn't hear the telephone part.
So, my point of perspective will change a bit over the next few months. I may or may not have a lot of time to go do some Gathering. I'll see how things go. In the meantime, I want each of you to know that I appreciate you reading my postings, stories and comments. I want you to know that there are a lot of Soldiers and Sailors and Marines and Airmen who would love to put their composure away for a few seconds to get a hug from a fellow warrior. To know that they're needed, are appreciated, but life will go onward. They just want to just relax for a few seconds in the middle of all of this and just be a person -- a human being -- before they have to reassemble the armor, put on the helmet and move out smartly.
I'm just glad that every once in a while, we all get to lower the armor and show our true faces to each other. It is this one action -- that of compassion and care for each other - which singles out our American armed forces from those of every other nation on the planet.
And I'm glad to be serving alongside them ...wherever that may be. I'm looking forward to the new challenges which are only a few hours away from greeting me.