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Archive for the ‘Pentagon’ Category

Oct 08 2010

With as Little Ceremony as Possible

Posted by Mugs @ 11:33 am in Family,Pentagon

Dale isn’t much for the big show. When we graduated from West Point twenty years ago, the graduation itself was such a huge ceremony that Dale did not want another ceremony just to pin on our LT bars. Some friends, and his Daddy’s presence on the day, got him to reluctantly agree to the ‘pin on’ event. It was decidedly low key.

He has maintained this low key attitude throughout his Army career which spans from 1984 to 2010. Every promotion, every change of command, every degree, every career milestone was marked with as little ceremony as possible. I usually got him to agree to do something, although he did it reluctantly.

For me, the most memorable ceremonial event was his return from Iraq. The kids and I  met him at the airport with the Manry family band: Josiah on baritone, Abby on flute, Zeke on bongo, and Gabe singing “When Daddy comes marching home again, Hoorah! Hoorah!” I smile whenever I think of it.

I have always joked that if you cut into Dale’s vein, there may be a chance he would bleed green. He loves the Army. If the decision to remain in the Army was based only on himself, retirement would have stayed far in the future. However, his decision making has always been tempered by how God directs and what is best for the family. He acknowledged that it was time to retire from the Army and submitted the retirement paperwork to set the process in motion. He now just needs to make peace with it.

Yesterday was his final out-processing appointment, and after turning in his badges, he was escorted out of the Pentagon. He has so many leave (vacation) days stored up that although he will technically still be in the Army, he will not be working for the Army during the 2+ months he has remaining.

Sadly for both of us, he will not be able to lay around the house for the almost three months of TDY and leave, because he starts his civilian career with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) on November 8th.

He was hoping to depart the Army by the back door, but the Army and his wife insisted he do something to acknowledge his 26 years of faithful service. On Wednesday, we attended a small ceremony inside the vault and he was given his retirement award, a U.S. flag, a thank you certificate from the President, and a baseball cap proclaiming “U.S. Army Retired.”

My brother Rob, his son Marcus, the kids and I were there with his office mates to observe the ceremony. The highlight of the event was the cake. Dale may not care for elaborate ceremonies, but he is fond of elaborate cakes. A friend made his retirement cake. There were two cakes, one was a replica of the Pentagon, and the other was Dale speeding away from it in a Mustang convertible.

If the cake had depicted reality, I think he may have been closer to making peace with his retirement. Unfortunately for him, the only Mustang he owned was eaten by friends and relatives.

Sep 11 2010

9/11 Pentagon Memorial

Posted by Mugs @ 7:35 am in Pentagon

During our tour of the Pentagon, we entered the Memorial Chapel for the victims of this horrible, sad day. The entry foyer is a quiet, respectful place where people can learn about the victims, both those on the plane and those at their work , and leave words of encouragement to their families.

The chapel itself is a place of peace to pray for those who each day mourn the loss of their loved ones taken suddenly in an act of hatred and violence.

On the grounds of the Pentagon, the outdoor memorial is open to the public. You do not need special access to visit it. It is a somber place with cantilevered benches representing all those who died. The benches are angled in rows based on the victims year of birth.

Viewing the benches of the children that were killed is especially difficult.

As with many things representing the military, it is stark and somber, severe, and harsh to look at. Like the rows of crosses at Arlington, and the names carved in black on the Vietnam wall, it demands an accounting.

There is a cost to keep our nation free. Please pray for the families of those who have paid it.

Apr 14 2010

The Old Man

Posted by Mugs @ 10:33 am in Pentagon,Work

Today is Dale’s 45th birthday.

Happy Birthday!!!

( I really couldn’t type anymore than three exclamation points. I tried. Really, I did. It was too painful. I so very much want to erase the two extraneous ones, but as a special birthday present I’ll leave it. I’ll probably delete them tomorrow.)

Army culture is young by nature and necessity. Kids enlist at seventeen. Anyone in their twenties is called Sarge. Sometime in your thirties, you are called Top. If you are past forty, you are respectively addressed as Sergeant Major.

Officers are called Sir or Ma’am and referred to by their position or rank: the LT, the CO, the XO, etc. until they hit that ancient benchmark of “The Old Man.” This reference title is usually reserved for the Battalion Commander who is past forty. A soldier would say,  “I have to  go see the old man.” (If a soldier declares this, he is usually not going to attend a happy event.)

After the title of The Old Man, you become The Full Bird or The General and by Army standards are considered quite ancient. Most soldiers do not interact with anyone above the old man.

Most full birds and generals are stacked up at the pentagon keeping each other company and coming up with brilliant ideas like capitalizing the letter F in family.

Dale has wandered among them as one of the multitude of LTCs who spend their time running and making coffee. Initially, he was recognized as a LTC, but as the years tick by, it becomes harder to guess.

A few weeks back, he was maneuvering through the locker room after returning from a run. Because he was wearing his running clothes, he was wearing no rank. A fellow LTC looked up when he realized Dale was trying to get by and said “Oh, excuse me, Sir. I’ll get out of your way.”

His rank may not have moved, but apparently his face has moved past old man to ancient.

Oct 22 2008

Adjusting to Pentagon Life

Posted by Dale @ 8:39 am in Pentagon,Work

About two weeks ago, I attended a 1-day Staff Officer Orientation for personnel recently assigned to the Pentagon. The briefers included many senior officers and civilians from the Department of the Army, including Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey. One of the first speakers, LTG David Huntoon, the Director of the Army Staff, talked about adjusting to life at the Pentagon. He remarked that most of us in the audience were coming from assignments with a lot of responsibilities to new jobs where we are only responsible for our little computer cubicle. He cautioned that we may have a difficult time adjusting to this change and lamenting about our fate in life. His sage advice was “Get over it”. Honestly, this transition has been much more difficult than I anticipated. My attitude wasn’t helped by the state of the cubicle I inherited (thanks, Espo).

I should have known what to expect. I replaced a very good friend, Espo. One of his online monikers is TrashMan. He is a hoarder. For some reason, though, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the piles of files, documents and folders on the desk. I have spent countless hours going through each document to identify what needs to be saved and what can be trashed. He promised he would organize everything before he left, and in his own way, he did. The morning after Espo moved to his new assignment (also in the DC area), I arrived to find the piles shifted around and labeled with yellow post-it notes saying:

  1. Look at 1st (But keep together… I will take some of it)
  2. Misc Classified Read Browse 2nd (or as time permits)
  3. Read when time
  4. Misc Stuff Peruse at Leisure
  5. Was Mostly Here
  6. Mostly Old, But I did Put some Here
  7. Real Old

After six weeks of work, I have almost finished the purge. Because I work in a secure facility, to discard any document, I have to review each page, tear it into small pieces and place the pieces in a burn bag for disposal. The burn bags are basically brown paper grocery bags for collecting classified materials for destruction. To date, I have filled twenty (20) burn bags! Espo has stopped by a couple of times in the midst of the purge. Although he hasn’t said anything, I can tell he is emotionally troubled by the amount of things I’ve sent away in burn bags. Oh well. As LTG Huntoon would say, he just needs to “Get over it”!

Sep 20 2008

Pentagon Meetings

Posted by Dale @ 6:51 pm in Pentagon

On Thursday, I attended the quarterly Army Geospatial Governance Board (GGB) meeting. The GGB is co-chaired by the Army Chief of Intelligence (G2) and the Army Chief of Engineers. Both of these guys are 3-star Generals. The G2 is one of my numerous bosses. My immediate supervisor is a Colonel-level civilian; his boss is a Colonel; her boss is a Colonel; and his boss is the G2. So when I say I work for the 3-star General, I really mean I work for Civilian #1 who works for Colonel #1 who works for Colonel #2 who works for the general (G2). COL #1 has been in G2 about a month longer than I have. The first day I met her, she commented that she was surprised with the number of meetings that everyone had to attend. I have found this to be very true. I guess I was spoiled for the year I was in Iraq since I eliminated all meetings that I had control over!

For every meeting, there’s a prep meeting. For every briefing, there’s a pre-briefing. It looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time giving pre-briefings in prep meetings so that when it’s time for the real meeting nobody is surprised by what is in my real briefing. I’ll have help from Jim, Pat and Tony, the other members of the Geospatial Team. The prep meeting for the GGB is a Council of Colonels. So for the GGB, we pre-briefed our boss (Civilian #1), then with Civilian #1, we pre-briefed COL #1. The Geospatial Team, Civilian #1 and COL #1 attended the Council of Colonels. After that, Jim, Civilian #1 and I pre-briefed the G2 on what happened in the Council of Colonels and what to expect in the GGB. We didn’t think COL #2 was going to be involved in the GGB, so we didn’t pre-brief him before we pre-briefed the G2. That was a mistake. He wasn’t happy about it and let us know. So we pre-briefed him two hours before the GGB was scheduled to start. The final tally was 4 pre-briefings and 1 prep meeting, all for a single 2-hour meeting.

For the GGB, I was the designated note-taker. My counterpart in the Chief of Engineers office, LTC Jeff Martin, was the designated slide flipper. Immediately after the GGB ended, I compared notes with Pat and Jeff. Originally, I had captured 4 taskers. After comparing notes, the list grew to 7 taskers. I put the taskers into a document and emailed it out to a few folks for review. After this review, the task list grew to 9. The next morning, Friday, I reworked the task list and ended up with 11 tasks. Task #11 was “Create a Task Tracker”. As I was adding Task #11 to the list, I felt like I was stuck in a Dilbert cartoon, and I was Wally. As soon as I sent it out, Jeff called and said we needed to add one more task which was “Schedule the next GGB”. So the final tally was 12 tasks.

I have meetings to prepare for meetings, briefings to prepare for briefings, and even tasks to prepare for tasks. I don’t know how it could possibly get any better.