Friday, February 17, 2012

Working with Really Good People

In my last post, I wrote about an example of dealing with people who are walking problems.  There are a lot of them here.  There are also a lot of really sharp people here, people who have been places and done things that most folks on Main Street can only imagine.  One of the things I like to do is to sit in the DFAC over a plate of Mystery Special and ask them some kind of leading question, like, "so, how did you come to be in the State Department?"  The responses will often just blow you away.

I was talking with one guy about the Mohammad and Mohammad trip (see previous post) when I asked that question.  It led to an hour and a half discussion.  He had done security for the Peace Corps for years, covering third-world countries over a huge area.  He'd also been involved in border security operations in Texas and New Mexico.  Before that, he'd been in Special Forces, and had been a Ranger in Vietnam.  (I had to drag that last bit out of him - guys who brag about being in a group like that are often making it up.)

I talked with a young woman who's covering education development in the province.  She was a teacher for two years before joining the Peace Corps and spending five years in Africa.  She worked in rural villages for a couple of years before managing logistical support for Peace Corps volunteers over a wide area.

Speaking of the Peace Corps, we have a lot of former volunteers who are now with USAID and working throughout Afghanistan.  They've been stationed everywhere: Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa, you name it.  The stories they can tell about the people they worked with, and villages they lived in, are amazing.  And very human, too: on a one-to-one level, people are basically people, everywhere you go.  It's how they do their "people-ness" that differs and makes things interesting, frustrating, funny, counter-productive, dumb, and innovative.

There's a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant in my office.  The guy's a ball of fire.  He used to run the Silent Drill Team at the Marine Barracks in DC.  If you've never seen the Silent Drill Team, it is a world-class performance: complex, close order drill with impeccable precision, carried out in silence.  The hard work and discipline that goes into it is unbelievable.  Our work is not nearly that intense, and he doesn't have to drive himself that hard anymore, but he's still on top of everything.  Don't cross the Gunny!

Actually, there are quite a few retired military guys out here.  They're all guys - haven't met any retired military women in this area.  They come from a variety of backgrounds: Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force; officer and enlisted.  One guy in my office was on the same Navy ship that I was on when we did the exercise Teamwork 84 and "invaded" Norway in winter of 1984.

I could go on.  There are a lot of people out here with incredible backgrounds and abilities.  Most of them are a lot of fun to work with.  A few are dickheads and a couple are way out of their depth.  But that's life, isn't it?  On balance, I've got a really good crew.  Can't ask for much more than that.

Oh, and to follow up on my last entry.  Either Mohammad or Mohammad called Abdullah and they agreed to meet at a place that the handlers, Bob and Alice, hadn't planned for.  Then Abdullah blew off the meeting.  Meanwhile, Bob and Alice discovered that their office in Kabul had a branch down here in Kandahar, so they used their branch office to make the trip arrangements.  Which is what they should have been doing from Day 1.  You still can't make this stuff up.

1 comment:

Debbie of Boise said...

Skip, I love your writing and your sincere interests in people, all sorts and conditions of people. Thanks you for sharing your experience in Afghanistan. It is important to me to hear, read the actual experience of those on the ground. I like your writing style and I think your paintings are amazing. I especially appreciate your "Old Times" collection. Your truly honor our elders. Blessings on you. Keep strong. Keep safe. Keep loving.