A common perception about Department of the Army Civilians that deploy is that we only do it for the money. We take the money, sure, sometimes we even deploy for it, but doing it for the money isn't the only reason. Some do it for a chance to do something different, some for a promotion. These three working in conjunction with one another means that we get a lot of park rangers and lock operators to be Resident Engineers. This isn't to say that park rangers, lock operators, and welders can't be good engineers. Not to say they can't work outside their everyday lane, just that sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Some of the mess that we have created in Afghanistan is because of that reason. Some of the mess is because we have failed to follow the Corps process. Some of the mess is trying to get those failures back on track. This isn't trying to be bitter about the mistakes, just to indicate that there are challenges above and beyond just the work and the enviroment that have to be overcome.
The money skews it. Coming over for the money is fine, but if you stay, or only do it for the money, it shows. And everyone gets a black eye for it.
There are a lot of people who can't deploy. Maybe they have medical reasons, maybe they have family problems, single parents, any number of reasons someone may not be able to pack things up and go to live in a conex box surrounded by concrete barriers and concertina wire with armed guards all around and the occasional rocket, indirect fire, or ground attack alarm going off. They feel like they're left holding the rope back home. While we're over here earning big bucks, they have to do their work and ours too. Not necessarily always the case, but sometimes painfully true.
Working 7 days a week is tough. Working 10 or 11 hour days is hard. I find that working only 11 hours a day is harder and at the end of that day there is often still more on my plate than I started the day with even though I knocked things off the list. Often I don't know what day of the week it is, or what the date is unless I really think about it. A week in Afghanistan seems like a month. A month is interminably long. And yet there are those back home that would say it doesn't count. Time in a deployed environment, experience gained during deployment doesn't count for anything. This harkens back to the park ranger Resident Engineers who set things back more than moved them forward.
Over the course of my time so far I have been made responsible for projects that total over $1.3 billion dollars. Under my watch my staff and I have made payments totaling over $175 million on those projects. The money we have earned for the Corps of Engineers to pay their (and our) bills is over $18 million. I have made 47 contract modifications that have added over $6 million to those projects. Maybe not so impressive until you realize I can only do it in increments of $500,000 per modification and most are less than $200k. I have networked and met people from all over the world especially the States. I only partially joke that my goal is to stop and friends houses and get a free lunch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
I came into this adventure with my eyes wide open. Not because I saw it all but because I wanted to see it all. I didn't know what exactly I was getting in to, and still may not know it all. Those that came before me for the money, or the promotion, just to get their high three, did sour the pot. Not only did they make more work for those that followed, but they have made those that can't deploy think that the time spent deployed doesn't count, it isn't real, the experience is less than what would be had back home. I didn't see any of that before I left home.
Last night as I talked with my right hand man, another friend of ours (from AZ and WA respectively when it comes time for lunch) came up and shared something with us. He too has seen the wastes, the bad stuff. He's seen all the bad that has been done and people who don't care about the job they've done. In his line of work, he seeks out whatever is going on, be it good bad or indifferent. It's his job to find the stuff no one wants to see, sometimes even him. Yet what Bill told us was that he had also seen the way we work, John and I. Our dedication, our committment, our desire to do what is right for the Corps, for the projects, and for Afghanistan has renewed his faith in the Corps and what we do.
The experience I have had so far has been everything I expected and hoped it would be even if there are those who don't think it counts. I don't do it (just) for the money. I don't do it for the glory, that appears to be fleeting anyway. I don't do it for the pats on the back. Neither does my right hand man. We do it because it's right. It's what needs to be done. It's the only way to do it.
We don't do it so that someone will take notice or thank us. But when someone does, it means that much more. Thank you, Bill. Knowing someone can see what we do makes a difference. It makes it worth doing.