The brigade commander said this morning, after hearing that our equipment turn-in was 98% complete, brigade-wide: “Let’s get us some flights and get us the hell out of here. What are we waiting for?” He was being facetious, of course – our timetable is on a fixed track and an organization our size is about as nimble as a fully loaded locomotive – but the sentiment was accurate. What are we waiting for?
My time remaining here is measured in days rather than weeks, yet my impeding departure hardly seems real. Unlike last time, there’s no feeling of transition, since my job was office-based and our mission ended with a fade to black instead of a triumphant finale. Indeed, we’re not even being directly replaced; we’re literally just turning off the lights and leaving, with no successors to inherit our equipment and hard-won FOBbit wisdom. It’s an endcap of anticlimax to the ultimate anticlimax deployment, a giant squib round of a tour during which nothing seemed to happen.
That’s pure cynicism, of course – obviously we did things and stuff happened, but up here in the rarefied air of the brigade HQ, it’s all very abstract and distant. Particularly for me, acting as I do as support for staff who mostly make work for subordinates, it feels like I hardly deployed at all. Too bad I couldn’t telecommute to this thing! I’m about six degrees of separation from anybody who actually had direct activity in the war (known as “warfighters,” in the parlance of contractors and field-grades), making my job several echelons beyond mere terms like “REMF” or “FOBbit,” thus probably necessitating new terminology.
I’m groping for words here, trying to contextualize this experience. I don’t feel like my time was wasted, somehow, but I don’t know why, because on an individual level, it almost certainly was. Maybe it’s because I can see myself and my actions as part of a much larger whole, and place myself as a tiny part of the proverbial Green Machine that is the Army. I struggled with much the same rationalization during my Iraq tour, but looking back, that time seems so much more meaningful and important now than it once did.
In any case, it won’t be long before this trip is at an end, and I’ll return to the human world once more…