Sunday, August 8, 2010
Chapter I - Monday:
My Friends and I stride into the relatively newly constructed building we more or less have called home since our arrival. It is hardened for protection against mortar and rocket attacks and has powerful although relatively unstable air conditioning. The cool air engulfs me and I can feel the heat radiating from my uniform. My body reacts by emitting thin glaze of sweat that soaks my boxers and undershirt. We trek upstairs and through the door into our office.
My office in Iraq looks relatively similar to that of my office at Hanscom Air Force Base just outside of Boston. However, the workload is definitely a change from the comfortable pace stateside. The way I describe my workload to family and friends is that there is more work to be done that could ever be accomplished. So you put your head down sift through what is most important and give it your best. Strangely my mental pendulum swings between being overwhelmed and relaxed by the reality that there is more work than can be realistically accomplished.
I log into my computer and shove aside the two contract files that have accumulated sometime in between my nine o'clock departure last night and my eight o'clock arrival this morning. Many of the CACI contractors who work in my office opt for a to go breakfast in order to start their clock early. Two of my team members have already placed a file on my desk for review and release. I open my email and see that I have 22 new messages. I quickly delete a few base wide messages detailing upcoming 5k runs, magic shows, and road closures. I continue and delete 5 or 6 messages from Iraqi contractors who somehow know that I am a contracting officer and email me daily for new work.
My career, although extremely frustrating at times, does serve a very important function especially in these new times of war. Nothing works on base without Contracting. From generators to internet service to security guards. There is some pride and definitely some heavy responsibility that comes with that reality. Seeing as though we are spending government money there is also an immense amount of bureaucracy to deal with that has grown like a virus over the last hundred years or so of government contracting. It has become more of an art than a science to learn to navigate the complicated and often conflicting guidance of the Federal Acquisition Regulation. One begins to get a taste of how Washington works while being involved in government contracting. Most laws and legislation are enacted out of reaction to scandals, protests, and other issues that have forced our nations leaders to do something to prevent such a thing from happening again. But the fallacy is that you can reactively legislate to proactively prevent. There will always be new challenges and new scandals. As the rules change so do the problems associated with those rules. And thus it becomes more and more difficult to execute what needs to be done. Being in the desert brings you even closer to the way Washington works as you can trace the numerous taskers and requests for information right back to DC. It is frustrating to say the least.
I put my headphones and crank some metal tunes to start my day off on the right foot. A few interruptions and a few hours later and I get up to take a break. I look over at Bob who strolled in around nine all sweaty from the walk over and ask him if he is ready. It is his last week in Baghdad before he heads home. We talk for a bit and his departure begins to give me hope of my own successful return home. He has helped me from the day I arrived and I think back just a few short months ago and I can't believe how settled I am in this strange world. The human spirit is an amazing thing. We naturally adapt to the situations and challenges around us. We are on a constant quest for normalcy, for a peace of mind. Yet we are also constantly striving to become better and to grow through new and unique experiences. It is an interesting dynamic that I have become not only aware of but dependent on throughout my short but eventful time on this earth. Just knowing that in the most stressful and clouded times of your life that you can and will overcome is a good feeling. It doesn't always ensure those times will be easy but it keeps you moving forward.
"You ready for lunch," I lean over and ask Bob. "Yeah, give me a second," he replies. I walk off and around the office gathering the rest of the Captain crew. We exit the office loudly, joking around as we make our way out to the car to drive to lunch. The midday heat is almost unbearable this time of year and the buildup of government vehicles on base which was source of shock when I first arrived has now become a saving grace. Another half day down and one step closing to coming home.....
To Be Continued....