The discussion I was having with our captain in the Civil Military Operations section pertained to a labor dispute that had reached the point of absolute crisis. We were rushing to prepare a plan of action when the alarm went off, letting me know that I was late to... ...No, that was not it at all. I wasn't late. I was waking up, in Georgia, on leave. It was the strangest sensation, and clear proof that my mind had not -- has not yet -- adjusted to being home.

It is a strange thing to come back from that world to this one. They would be hard-pressed to be less similar. The world in Iraq is a world of work: from the time you wake until the time you lie down is uninterrupted labor. Thirteen hour days are normal, fifteen not unusual, longer yet not shocking. There is no weekend, though you may be given a few hours of Sunday morning for worship services if you like. There is otherwise no rest of any kind. Every moment is employed.

It is also a world of crisis. The war has reached the point at which it is, frankly, no longer a war at all: it is now what is properly called a Foreign Internal Defense mission. The war is over. Yet the crises continue, because now there are new problems -- like how to reduce forces. The brigade I work with is now occupying the space of what was, a year ago, four brigades' space -- a division. When it arrived, it had one brigade's space, then three (as it replaced a brigade that had already assumed a second brigade's battlespace), then four. The operating environment has constantly expanded as it has taken over land where other brigades were leaving and not being backfilled. The planning and logistical and operational challenges of that kind of continual movement and expansion are not small.

It is also a world without tenderness, although there is plenty of companionship between comrades. At home, when you grow tired or sad or any of a host of other things, there is a wife or a loved-one to comfort you. At least there is a dog or a cat! Not so in Iraq, where there is no whining permitted. Drive on.

This is a major gear shift when you come home suddenly on leave, as I have just done. The travel home provides no opportunity to begin the mental transition, as it is itself a grueling ordeal of paperwork and lines and multiple flights on military and civilian aircraft. Then, suddenly, it is over. The birds are singing, and you have nothing to do. You are home, for a while.

No comments: