You may not have known this, but there are three sitting US Senators in Afghanistan...on Annual Training.
Senators and Congresspeople visiting the 'Stan is nothing out of the ordinary...in fact, it's so ordinary that many units consider the Congressional Delegations (CODELs) a huge nuisance that drain their time and manpower away from their actual missions. But in the case of Senator Brown, Senator Graham, and Senator Kirk, they are actually spending their congressional recess here, in uniform, serving in actual billets.
Because they also *just so happen* to be sitting Senators, their visits come with a lot more pomp and circumstance than would those of any other pair of O-5s and an O-6.
Getting to meet with LTC Brown was still pretty interesting, and he talked to us about making sure we preserve the gains made in Afghanistan rather than pull the plug on this thing too precipitously and risk losing the momentum that the Afghan government has. That momentum is real, by the way, and I see it every day...in fact, the entire size and scope of the training mission is precisely what makes us NOT the Soviets, the British, Genghis Khan, or Alexander the Great, all of whom failed to build lasting institutions that survived much beyond their respective departures.
I can, and will, write more about that another time.
For now, I'm mostly just thinking about a trip I'm about to take. It's a scheduled follow-up thing with Mass Eye and Ear...and it was a requirement in the med waiver that allowed me to go on this deployment. Basically, I get to go home just long enough to get poked and prodded a bit and have a camera shoved up my nose and into the back of my throat (seriously). After this visit, the next periodic check-up will be once I'm *really* back home, so I can get back on a normal schedule with them then.
I was dreading it for a while, just because it's a LOT of pain-in-the-keeshter of moving through Bagram, Kuwait, Atlanta, and Logan in a nonstop blur that might also involve Leipzig and/or Shannon...and on top of that, I was not looking forward to putting my wife through roller-coaster trip number 5 (the icy parking lot in Reading, then pat leave, then the pass from Hood, then R and R, and now this), but the closer I get to home (the journey starts today), the more I realize I am looking forward to it.
I don't mean the medical part of it, but I do mean the time with Ratriey and Lily. Even if it's just a couple days, I know it will be special, and I know it matters to us.
Plus, it sort of breaks the time up. Once I get back from all the traveling, there will only be three flips of the calendar before the Georgia guys come for the RIP/TOA (Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority).
I vow, just as I did last time, to try to write more, to photograph more, and to document more thoughts in the moment.