Monday, May 3, 2010

Musical Chairs

Unlike normal jobs, military jobs almost always have finite timelines.  It is rare that anyone stays in the military in the same location for their entire career.  This quality is hyperbolized in the deployed environment where no one stays for more than 12-15 months, and most everyone is only here for 3-6 months.  To ebb the tide of constant orienting and for other reasons, most folks come and go on certain calendar rotational blocks.  A small minority arrive between the blocks - most likely to avoid having entirely new staff at the same time.

We recently said goodbye to a large group of people in the hospital who were making their long trek back home.  Some were going through Germany, some through Ireland, but almost all through some staging area outside of war theater, but within the AOR, namely, Kuwait, Qatar, or Saudi.  Special forces guys fly in and out of all kinds of places, but they don't count.  I am talking about the regular rank-and-file; the massive support for the warriors and peacekeepers.  For them, no one seems to know what is going on, and you must just take deep breaths and exercise your patience.  Keeping the flight manifests secret until just prior to the take off is probably in the best interests of security, and allows for execution of last minute operations (e.g. we lost one plane on the way here because a General and his staff absconded with it for reasons unmentioned).  It does however engender a copious amount of distrust and cynicism to the system which mercilessly holds your metaphorical testicles at its whimsy. 

So, this new batch of folks rotating in have the same smirk, and dark ovals under the eyes which I, and many before me, have worn after finally arriving here.  [Funny psychology: 10 days of thankless, tortuous travel, makes you start to pine for a bed, and a semi-permanent shed within which to store your gear, even if the stopping place must be this kind of purgatory].  They tell similar stories of flights delays 7 times, flooded tents with rats, and customs agents who took DVDs or electronic devices.  These people also breathe fresh air into the place.  The last set of new people then become the veterans to show the new set of new people the ropes, and in the manner of impermenance, redesign some aspect of the ropes to their liking.  They come with fresh personalities and idiosyncrasies.  And out go those which they replace. 

There is nothing like shared suffering to solidify a friendship, like the weld of lead and nickel under smelt; and similarly, not much time does it take to get to know someone fairly well, and truly feel loss when they rotate back home.  You feel sadness to go on while they return, but gladness for them to leave this behind them.  In the same way, proximity magnifies misery, and these close quarters intensify the polarity of the same idiosyncrases which repel us, in human nature.  For these people, there is opposite sentiment of rejoice at their departures and jealousy that they have completed their sentence, albeit, at times, dishonorably or with rancor.  We are just glad to see them go.

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