Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Journey's End

The Final Months, Weeks, Days

I'd like preface this entry by explaining the excessive delay in this final post. Getting out of country felt like a very busy and rapid process. I admit it was and it wasn't for me. I had moments. Getting momentum to put to paper many of these experiences were rough because I didn't want to post raw feelings and emotions regarding some of the issues occuring around me and some of the relationship flare ups that occured. This was a pretty ugly time for us. We had a number of "Come to Jesus" sessions (one of which I will never forget) in order to get the staff working some what cohesively. It wasn't really a matter of our not getting along so much as it was politics was rearing it's ugly head and creating division and unnecessary hurdles.

The last bit of the tour consisted of wrapping up documentation (evaluation reports, awards, etc), training our replacements, getting personal effects and equipment loaded, packed up and there was some waiting. I was completely committed to losing a last bit of weight prior to exiting the country.

And the winner is...

Awards were an exceptionally political process. I'm glad it was managed the way it was managed because some people felt put out and some people didn't. There were moments of surprise (for some, shock, is a better word) and moments of truth with respect to awards and that's really all that can be said on that issue.

Big On Weight? Not Quite So Short on Awards...

Word came down the pike that if you were over the height/weight standards, expecting an end of tour award would be a doomed hope. A number of individuals, including me, managed to drop those last few pounds and we did manage to get our awards. This took, on my part, an excess of 60-80 minutes of running each day (rotation - 60 one 80 another), some dietary alterations, and lot of raw spots on my feet.

It was suggested a 'witch hunt' (deliberate effort to ensure some people didn't get awards) was in full effect, especially when everyone in the company was weighed once and then a "select few" were weighed again a couple days after without more than 1 days' notice. I'd like to stress, in spite of this, those of us that are overweight managed to pass the test and get our commendations.

Evaluation Reports

This took a long period of time for me, as the standards were never completely explained to anyone's satisfaction. So, this consisted of "trail and error". I knew that, again, politics were at work. I submitted my evaluations some 10+ times before they were accepted. I wasn't exactly sure why each time the document was rejected. I was told to change one or two words, rephrase or arrange some words, but apparently it passed the mustard after some light rephrasing and arranging.

I admit it was a hassle, but towards the end, I was able to get a sufficent explanation about what was unsatisfactory about my work to get the "gist". Thank goodness for small favors.

The Replacements

I initally didn't mind the replacement. The replacement seemed to be on the straight an narrow but over time I noticed a couple things. First and foremost, the person in question seemed more concerned about getting my building rearranged and less focused on tackling the training program my section developed. I took his previous experience into account, and figured it was the old "active army"-"national guard" kick. It was pretty clear this mentality was in full effect (especially when the rest of the replacements showed up). The situation escalated into a verbal confrontation when I noticed something was going on and it became very clear that politics were at work.

There was a flare up of emotion on my part. It was a culmination of some things being done behind my back, a general feeling of contempt being held against me, and I lost my cool. Unprofessional, but, considering the way I was being treated I felt it was somewhat justifiable. I've been amazed( on the two occasions I did loose my cool and got emotional) at how the individuals involved immediately became team players the day afterwards and wanted nothing more than to make me feel somewhat respected. It was nice that I had the support of my command and I learned a couple lessons from my side of the fence and the other side of the fence with respect to this situation.

  • Don't loose your cool. No matter how much that approach has been validated to me this year. It's unhealthy and it assists in the deterioration of your professional integrity.

  • Never behave as if you know more than the other guy. You probably don't, even when you do, don't go there. Take it in stride. Don't be/get self-righteous.

  • Always keep management notified.

There are probably a dozen of these lessons I could affix to this event but, it was a long time in coming.

I just *knew* you had secret internet lines!

I was accused of violating the policy for the commercial internet service. I had the feeling this was tied into the situation above in a more "holistic" fashion. In response to this, I defended my section and I took an internet cable placed it into a plastic bag, stapled the bag to a paper that had printed on it "Conspicuously Hidden Morale Internet Line". I then took this collage and placed it above my door in the hopes that the not-quite-so-tongue-in-cheek gag would at least crack a smile for whatever poor soul entered my building during this era of unrest.

We had some serious issues with equipment inventory/tracking. Additional lessons, some I learned the hard way, others by watching dramas unfold, consisted of:

  • Make sure the final name on the liability chain is notified of requests for equipment. It's their decision not yours.

  • Follow up on the dates for hand receipts. Regularly.

  • Conduct your own monthly equipment inspections.

  • Always notify management when something uncool happens with regard to equipment.

"Leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be home again..."

After mailing all my stuff home and getting the rest of my stuff into the connex, I moved from my trailer into an office building we had closed down. I was in there with 3 other officers (S2, and 2 S3 guys) and we had a pretty smooth ride after turning over our respective jobs to the replacements.

The last minute of the last day we were there - a "signal emergency" went down. It was more of an "I told you so moment" but, I kept the lips tight, did a quick fix with a stern warning about the way the fix was implemented and loaded onto a vehicle for my carting away to the airstrip.

We loaded onto the plane and during the flight down to our holding area near the gulf, the pilot gave us a roller coaster ride out of "dodge city".

In our holding area, it was particularly hot and sandy. I recall a day of sleep and food with a quick trip to the PX. We loaded up tractor trailers with our gear and then went to customs for our shake down. My part took quite some time because I loaded myself down with a lot of junk (another lesson I learned, travel light). After waiting another 8 hours or so for a flight we loaded on the plane, stopped by a european country to refuel and ended back up where this all started.

An Uneasy Holding Pattern

We were greeted to our outprocessing installation by officals of every type and feather. Suffice it to say, the drama didn't stop. Emotions flared up a couple times amongst our ragtag group. The two weeks that followed were long and again the political implications of what people said and did were rolling all over the place. I have to admit this was a pretty ugly time for some people - my group was not involved so, we kept to ourselves and stayed out of sight/mind.

Home Sweet Home

We managed to survive outprocessing and on the way back home, we were treated to XM radio (not bad!) and a nice solid sandwich/apple/cookie lunchbag. Once at the airport, we had a relatively quick rush to the busses and a full law enforcement escort to our release point. A couple hours of waiting for officals to arrive on site, a march into a gym, a formation, some speeches, and lots of cheering later, we were released from our tour of duty.

My parents had to travel down from their home a couple states away and they showed up, with a really old buddy of mine, after the festivities (most people dashed to the 4 winds). The trio picked me up and after a nice night in town, my family started it's the trip home along with the rest of my life.

I've more to relate in terms of my post-tour. I'll save that for my next post which will continue this weekend.