Our last day on Dwyer. I woke up really early because all I had with
me was my poncho liner and I froze just laying on my bed. I had a
0300 wakeup vs my 0400, but that was after about an hour of shivering.
Some of the other guys had the same problem. They said that they
roused themselves and went to the restroom merely because they were
I used the gym and the MWR before anyone else woke up. While in
between sets I worked on my admissions essays for Yale and Columbia.
When I came back the tent was alive. Everyone had to get up to be
ready to pack their bags into an ISO container.
I went to breakfast and had a conversation with Josh and Maj Davidson
about Brawny. Josh said “he has a list of preferences because of
what he has been exposed to. He doesn’t really know why he likes any
of those things, he merely does.”
I said “He’s like a ribosome, he just faithfully replicates the DNA
that he is supposed to, he doesn’t have to know why, he just acts.
Society needs lots of guys like that, not everyone can question the
paradigm, the bulk of people need to replicate similar DNA patterns
and will be ideally suited to the world as it is, not the world as it
“Right, not everyone can think about the reason for everything that
they do in life. I agree with GK Chesterton, Dogma has a purpose.
What is frustrating about Brawny is that he tries to replicate his
preferences in everyone else and doesn’t realize that all he has are
preferences, not real thought, and that when you try to engage with
him about why he believes what he believes, he gets angry. There may
be hope though, he did say once that ‘maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on
the Muslims, they believe just as much as I do.’”
Maj Davidson came in with a few comments and Josh then piped up again.
“It has been interesting to live in a tent with Chris and Doug all
year, you can’t get more polar opposites. It’s an interesting social
“The only interesting social experiment in my sent is trying to figure
out which of the Bash Brothers stink today.” Maj Davidson groaned.
We ambled back to our tent and drug out expeditionary wheely bags to
the ISO. Not even half of the company took up a full semi’s worth of
space. In all it totaled 5 10x10 aluminum pallets stacked 10 feet
I came back and set to work on my essays and watched a TED. That
worked for a while, then I passed out for about two hours at midday.
I went to lunch and met up with the CISE Marines in the chow hall,
they asked me some questions about the ANA. I gave them the answer
that I knew, but it seemed odd that they were asking me. Somehow it
felt like they should have been asking someone else. My instant
mental response was ‘this is no longer my job.’ Steve did something
similar. I gave one of the CISE linguists a Dari greeting, and he said
“leave it here.” It’s odd, something we worked so hard on for a year
everyone is eager to forget and leave behind. I wonder if this is
because we all saw the whole experience so negatively. So maybe this
is how the brand new war starts. The guys who fail and come back
don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to think about it, they just
want to move on and do something else. Maybe this is why no one knows
anything when they get here. Not just because guys like me are denied
the opportunity to train the incoming teams, but also because those
who have the corporate knowledge just don’t want to talk about it. I
think I have proof of this. I know damn near everyone who
participated in the “march up”—invasion of Iraq, but even if I know
that others were once on an embedded training team, I have no idea
what they actually did.
I worked out a second time in the afternoon, ripped the nametapes off
of my worn-through cammies and put them in the uniform disposal bin.
I put on the cardboard camouflage that I will wear when I march back
to see my wife.
In true Marine Corps fashion we showed up at the AADCG (Aircraft,
arrival, departure, control group) or as everyone else in the world
calls it, an airport. We were lucky, this wasn’t like Qandahar where
we showed up half-a-day prior to the flight, we only came six hours
I quickly hogged one of the few power outlets in the building and
again shaped my grad school essays.
Gunny has been more involved in the past few days. He was actively
involved in passing word about when and where we needed to be, but it
started before that. When the new guys showed up he was out there
with us on our walkabout, and he had a comment at every turn. Capt
Nowak mocked him for this and Gunny replied that he got most of his
information about the camp from Facebook posts that he read. None of
that was odd, the Gunny deflecting with humor and Capt Nowak taking
personal offense that his once-confidant didn’t do any work with the
Afghans during his year in Afghanistan. What was striking was the
LtCol’s reaction. He used to actively solicit the GySgt’s opinion on
all kinds of matters, treat him like commanders treat their senior
enlisted men. These requests for comment tapered off after it became
clear that the Gunny was not doing anything to advance the cause, yet
as soon as the Gunny started getting actively involved again, speaking
up on our tour for instance, the LtCol went back to openly asking for
his comments in front of the new group of Marines.
Two things are striking about this.
First, why the Gunny gave a shit in the first place. I think I see
why. The Gunny is the master of the weak tie. He makes great short
impressions on everyone, he comes across as effusive, engaging and
entertaining. Most of the time this is over-the-top and it is easy to
see when he is putting it on, like he did when he spoke to some female
Army Psychological Operations Staff Sergeant in the AADCG. After this
period his interaction falls off. I don’t understand why that happens
except that maybe he is right, that he is a really shy guy who has
developed this ‘not me’ persona that helps him get by.
The Second odd thing is the LtCol’s response. I am not sure why he
allows the gunny to step back into that role so quickly. Neither of
these are mutually exclusive, but as I have said before. Perhaps he
wants him to become that guy, so he treats him like that.
Alternatively, perhaps he has been so conditioned to the roles that we
all play (e.g. an Officer in Charge/Commanding Officer needs to treat
the senior enlisted man like this____) that he easily falls back into
it even when the senior enlisted is not doing his part.
We hopped on our C-17 and sat because the Manas Airport was not open
yet. I was doubly fortunate. I was able to sit next to Rob LaFranchi,
and I got one of the inward-facing bulkhead seats with legroom. I
thought I would feel more as I left. I thought I would feel elation
at leaving, or some type of angst that the next team was now bumbling
their way forward. When the turbofans wound up and all of the gear
shifted a few inches to the rear of the plane and clunked as the locks
held it in place, I felt nothing. Was I just tired, was I somewhat
loath to leave the place that I now thought of as ‘mine’, was I
mentally drained? I don’t know