The other day at the US Embassy in Kabul I bumped into a guy who works as the Strategic Intel Analyst for Ambassador Eikenberry.
"That's got to be a tough job," I said. "Between his command time here, and his post-Army career as a diplomat, he probably knows more about Afghanistan than just about anyone else."
His response was interesting, and it's stuck with me since he said it: "Actually, Eikenberry is one of the easiest principals I've ever worked for. Yes, the guy is a near-genius, former General, fluent Chinese speaker, area subject matter expert, etc. but all that adds up to mean he's got nothing to prove."
It's like, the guy is so accomplished that insecurity isn't even an afterthought for him. He asks questions each afternoon to his Strategic Intel guy, and that guy (an Army Major) stays up all night researching and answering them so he can turn something back around to his boss. At which point the Major then rests -- lather, rinse, repeat for a year.
That sounds like an awesome set-up. One of the quirkier aspects of being on a staff is that Field-Grade Officers sometimes like to see if they can "trump" or "punk" someone by having, or claiming to have, some piece of knowledge first.
It's enough to make this Company-Grade say, "Good for you, but who cares?"
As much as I complain about Staff Life, though (and yes, I'm giving myself a free pass on that one...all year long) I promise never to lose perspective of what it might mean to be operating at a platoon or squad level somewhere in Kunar, Helmand, or Kandahar. That's a whole different type of stress and worry, and no, I wouldn't rush to make the trade.