That's it! I've finished my turnover, attended my last meeting and shipped all my stuff home. All I need now is a plane flight out of here, and that will happen in just over a week. It's been an odd week - ever since I announced my pending departure, (in the way so many do these days ... an Outlook 'Out-of-Office' message) I have found my inbox frighteningly quiet. As described in a previous post, the war must go on, and there is no reason to continue E-mailing a guy who isn't in the job anymore. At the high point, I was averaging over one hundred E-mails a day (many of them were 'informational copies' not requiring action - but the majority required some response on my part) ... over the last four days ... six. Not six a day, mind you, but ... six. I am Jack's inner boredom. I still had to attend the last few meetings with Aaron, but the job is his now. I just sit in the back to provide historical reference if needed. I'd love to say that I'm saddened by my new found apparent lack of value, but I understand the need to move forward. I'm just happy that my relief has the same drive and excitement for the job I did, so many months ago. To him, there's no reason to accept 'no' for an answer. He doesn't have the history of running into the bureaucracy of a large occupying force, so he's able to dream big.
I really believe that reason is justification for the 280 day tour (the Army does 12-15 months - 15 for deploying units, 12 for Individual Augmentees, the Air Force does 6 or 12 months, and the Navy does 6 month, 12 month and 280 day (just under 10 months)). Folks here for 6 months never really have time to 'get into' their jobs before they start preparing to leave. 12 month folks get burned out after about 9 months. The 280 day IA has allowed me to understand the job and make some positive impact, without getting to the point where I'm so burnt out that I don't care anymore (not saying that all folks here for 12 months get to that point, but I have seen it more than a few times). Some of the Navy folks like the idea of 6 month tours (standard for our shipboard deployments), but my problem with that is: when you go on a six month Navy deployment, we are doing the job we have trained for our entire career - the 'spin-up' process is much smaller. When you come to a job such as this, you have to learn an entirely new way of looking at the battlespace. It takes several months before you are a fully functional member of the team. If you're here for only six months, you may be more than halfway through your tour before you can start to contribute at your full potential. The folks over here don't have time to wait for you to 'get it.' If you're not part of the team ... they'll find someone who is. It gets frustrating to find someone who can really help your efforts, only to have them tell you that they are on the way out the door in a few weeks. Either way, I'm glad it's over.
Over the next few days, I'll be killing time in my trailer waiting for my flight to Kuwait. The Navy rapidly realized the need for a 'transition program' to help Sailors re-acclimatize to life at home. When we're on shipboard deployments, we do some of this on the long journey home from our forward deployed station. Here, the answer is the Warrior Transition Program. It allows us to return all of the gear the Army so graciously lent us, and sit through some briefings to help us transition to home (read: Death by Powerpoint). The original version of WTP was reported to be a pain in the butt on your way home. The Navy responded by actually LISTENING to the critiques and adjusting the course. The feedback we get now is that WTP has some hassles, but is mostly free-time to allow one to 'de-compress.' I'm looking forward to that. I have some friends from my early training that will be travelling with me, so I'll have some folks to hang out with (Hee-Haw has already decided that we should spend most of our free-time playing Halo 2 - I know Halo 3 is on the market, but we're creatures of habit). I'll probably write a bit more before I get home, but this is probably the last 'large post' of The Landlocked Sailor. I want to take a moment to thank each of you for following along with me for the last ten months. It may seem crazy, but in some ways I feel like it's been a conversation (albeit a long, one-sided one) with folks who, although you may not totally understand whats going on over here, are willing to listen. I started this a way to keep the family in the loop about my adventures, but it turned into a way to keep some sanity in an insane place. Anyway, thanks for listening. Until tomorrow.