...and a Category 5 hurricane hits the Caribbean.
Or something like that. Anyway, if you follow Afghanistan very closely, you might've read this week about the first major US Army unit to leave theater without a backfill. Put into plain English, that represents a big step in the math problem that means you have to turn 101,000 into 91,000 by the end of the year. The 34th ID, out of Iowa and Minnesota (with attached units such as the 67th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade out of Nebraska) is now happily back in the US of A, while no unit now in Afghanistan arrived to take over what they used to do.
Any guesses as to what happened?
To flip an old saying around, fewer hands now make for heavier work. And the ripple effects, or the chaos theory in practice, has many fascinating implications. Because for every task or mission that you need to pull bodies out of hide to staff, you've now created another void.
Units like ours now suddenly have way more convoy duties, way more guard tower duties, and, yes, way more chow hall head-counting duties (hey, not everything is glamorous in a war zone).
I've had the chance to partake in said activities in the past week, so hence the "radio silence" here on the blog...and I snapped some cool pics, which I hope to post (There are some tight CENTCOM rules about what can and can't be posted, but I promise to start making this more visual...no, really, I mean it).
But anyway, what all THAT means is that whoever is now sitting on duty in the chow hall, or up in the tower, or ferrying people to Kabul International Airport (but remember, that's always KAIA, pronounced "kai-uh" and never abbreviated KIA) isn't doing whatever else they were doing. On the one hand, yes, that trims a bit of fat ('worked' does not equal 'overworked' in my book) but it also leaves some things shorthanded.
What it also does, though, is takes a unit like ours, that was generally not too jazzed about its mission, and it flips that on its head. We're just a lot busier than we were before last month, but because we've got a lot more purpose, our morale has gone up proportionally. It's the simplest, oldest rule in soldiering, but the most discipline and morale problems occur not when people are too busy, but when they're too idle. Idle or under-engaged times are also when people turn inwards and bicker with each other the most.
I would say the time is flying by now -- not being a primary staffer, I now have a lot more opportunity to see and do things I wouldn't have before.
Still, it's crazy to think that we're still not at the "just 200 more days" mark. We're not that far, but still, we're not there.
I'll go ahead and chalk that last one up under the "things not to bring up on the phone with the missus" header.