10 in, 390 out.
If you want to get a glimpse of what things are like in the wild and crazy mountains along the Af-Pak border, read "War," by Junger or watch Restrepo.
Now imagine the total opposite. Imagine Office Space, but everyone's wearing a cool-looking camouflage-pattern uniform. That's more like being on a staff.
I haven't even left Massachusetts yet, but my days have been long (from the alarm clock going off to the key turning in my front door we're talking 16 hours, easily) and somewhat stressful. I haven't come up with a great analogy yet but I sort of imagine it being like the ball inside a pinball machine -- always bouncing around, dodging obstacles, occasionally racking up points for being in the right place at the right time, but never really resting.
When I think about the crazy things that happen in a day -- the fiesty Captain who somehow thought it was my fault that some e-mails sent overseas were bouncing back, the people who freeloaded off the pizza I ordered even though I put it out as a $5 take-it-or-leave-it buy-in offer, and the confusion among some of the staff sections about which duties belonged to whom, something becomes very clear: None of that stuff really matters.
Life, limb, and eyesight matter. Afghanistan getting up on its own two feet matters.
Stolen pizza, arrogant Officers, and top-heavy staff shenanigans don't.
The beat goes on.