It's been a pretty busy week since my last post. I completed my first week of training for my new job. It was actually a pretty good course: every topic was important and most were taught by really good instructors. There were a few that were painful, such as the droning lecturer right after lunch (whiplash city, and not just for me), but overall, I give it high marks. This class was very large, and most of the people have experience in Iraq or Afghanistan already, some for up to five or six years. Only a few were first-timers.
This class gave us a macro overview of Afghanistan. It touched on its history, culture (repeatedly), government, economy, the US strategy, US and international organizations, dealing with the military, life at the Embassy and in the field, and much more. You can't teach everything, especially in one week, but this provided a good framework for the more specific training that will follow. This coming week, I'll be in a smaller group of people who are all headed for assignments in the field ("the field" being anywhere outside Kabul).
My bottom-line takeaway from this week's classes: Afghanistan is a much harder problem than Iraq was, and if we screw it up or pull out too soon, we'll have to go back again.
All was not classroom drudgery, however. We had a group get-together one night, and on two other nights I got to meet up with old friends. One is a friend from my Bosnian deployment - I hadn't seen him in 15 years. The other was a guy I worked closely with in Baghdad. And I'll see a couple more old friends this coming week. That's one good thing about passing through DC when you've spent time in the military or federal service. I also got to see my cousin and her son yesterday and have a wonderful dinner in Dupont Circle. I tell ya, I'm trying to make the most of the opportunities to hit some good restaurants while I can. Life's gonna change here really soon!
Today, I went down to the National Gallery of Art to get my art fix. I took my sketch pad and tried to learn a few things from the masters. Did I? I dunno. But it sure felt good to try!