Monday, November 3, 2008

Gatherings and Goings

Last week our hosts, B/415th CA, the out-going Civil Affairs unit, held a barbeque for us a “Hail and Farewell” party. These events are not uncommon for the military, but the degree to which this one was done says a lot about the unit going home and the other residents of the FOB.

The grill was enormous. It was big enough to lie down in. We started the charcoal around 4:00pm and the first food went on the grates at 5:00pm. Most of the food was donated by the dining facility; however some, like lamb, was purchased off of the local economy through an interpreter. There were sausages, steaks, ribs, chicken, and lamb kabobs. The food was nonstop for three hours. The prime rib was still frozen at the core, so in typical Army fashion we cut it with a cordless saws all power tool.

People came from all over; Soldiers from other units, civilian contractors, firemen, and guys from the Special Forces compound next to ours. Most came to say good-bye to the troops from B/415th.

At one point it was easy to forget where we were. It was a festive atmosphere and at one point the numbers swelled to about sixty. Music was blaring, cigars were being smoked, and everyone was laughing. A small group of us took up an invitation to go play volleyball at the Special Forces compound. They turned on their flood lights and spent the night chasing the ball through the air – and the darkness – for a spirited and sloppy game.

The reunion from the arrival of the main body of the unit the fews days before was short lived. In the days following the party three of my teams departed the FOB to go to remote stations to do their jobs. Although I had been apart from the company for a few days, this separation away from these teams will be longer. The challenge of leadership is harder in these situations and I guess that I worry about them - without sounding selfish or egotistical – now they are out from under my protective wing.

Finally, last night or early this morning, the last of the B/415th personnel boarded helicopters for the first leg of their trip home. The compound, the rooms, the offices, the missions are now ours.

The TOA (transfer of authority) is complete and responsibility for civil military operations in this area is now ours. The deployment began in August but the tour begins in earnest today.

Happy election day.

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