Friday, February 05, 2010

Starting the Final Push

I'm back in Baghdad again, starting my final stint in the country. The R&R trip was just what I needed: a break from the grind, a re-acquaintance with home, and a reminder of what's important.

The trip took 36 hours from home to barracks. The flight from Asheville to Charlotte was delayed a half hour due to weather. The flight from Charlotte to Dulles was delayed a half hour due to weather. The flight from Dulles to Kuwait was delayed 2 1/2 hours due to really bad weather: snow was coming down so hard that they had to de-ice the plane, and we were at the end of a very long line of planes. I had a window seat, which meant that I had something to lean against so I could sleep once we were in the air. Unfortunately, once I woke up, there was nothing to look at: there were solid clouds all the way from Dulles to southern Iraq. It only cleared up as we entered Kuwaiti airspace and by then it was dark. Bummer.

Ali Al Salem airbase was the same old same old. We showed up at 4 a.m. to turn in our bags, then had roll call at 6 a.m., loaded up onto the bus, and were delivered to the C130. This time I got smart. To get a good seat on a C130, you want to be either in the very front or the very back, where you can stretch your legs a bit. Otherwise, you're sitting sideways, jammed in like sardines, knee-to-knee with the poor slob across from you, with your carry-on carried in your lap. Oh, and you're wearing 40 pounds of body armor and helmet. So this time, I positioned myself at the very front. It worked out well, as I was able to stretch and move a little bit.

The flight to Baghdad takes about an hour and a half. We offloaded and went through the usual arrival drills. A guy from my command picked me up and took me back to the barracks. A shower, shave, change of clothes, and a bite of lunch, and I was a new man.

The evil trolls have been busy while I was gone, chipping away at the funding for my programs or causing delays or generally making mischief. I have a good bit of remedial action that needs to be taken quickly. But that's pretty much par for the course.

I feel a bit different this time back. I'm not as personally invested in these projects as I was three weeks ago - there's a distance there, so I can look at the projects a bit more dispassionately. That, I think, is a good thing. Maybe it's the fact that I had a breather and can look at the projects with new eyes. Or maybe it's the fact that I'm entering my final three-month stretch. Whatever the case, I hear a lot of noise and rumblings from On High, from the people we're doing these projects for, and from other related organizations, and I'm not taking it personally, as I might have just a few weeks ago. You want this project done? Let me run it. You want to cancel it? Okay, fine: here's the impact, now make the decision.

I turned in my notice yesterday that I will leave here when my term ends during the first week in May. It felt like a load began to be shifted off my shoulders.

So. Here I am. I still have a lot that I want to accomplish. I want to push my projects further along, and I want to find a good caretaker to turn them over to. Time to get to work.

1 comment:

Kanani said...

Glad you made it. And yes, it's good to have a bit of distance to put all things into their proper perspective.

I'm looking forward to swinging by to see how the projects progress.

Countdown to May...