Friday, July 07, 2006
A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world
I'm beginning to wonder if I should have posted yesterday's story of my adventure outside the wire. I received several emails from worried parents and friends of other officers headed over here, some with my unit and going to "similar" jobs. So today, I think it's necessary to provide a litte clarification. As a Navy officer, I am a veteran teller of "sea stories". Yep, when I get back home I'll be sitting down in the O-club with a beer and chattering on to my shipmates about "When I was in Iraq." One necessary ingredient of sea stories is giving just enough accurate detail to make something sound really cool and dangerous, while leaving out the details that would make the event similar to watching a good action film. Unfortunately, because I don't want to discuss the details of tactics (either ours or what we know of the enemy's) I can't really elaborate on the details that make what happened much more benign than it sounds at first telling. I think one of the biggest sources of fear is worry about the "unknown". I was very worried before I went out the first time. I was much less worried (but still cautious) the second time. I'm still worried enough that I turned down an offer of a "third time" next week. But it's not really as dangerous as you would think from watching TV or reading news focused solely on the negative. Some, especially those who have a sailor over here, have asked me if they will have to go outside the wire. My answer is "probably not." Most of the Navy jobs do not require it at all. Even within our unit, there are many who have not ever left the FOB (Forward Operating Base)... making them, in the local parlance, "Fobbits"; and there are some who have gone out much more frequently than I have. I probably could have said "no" to my trips, but I chose to do them for specific reasons and am still glad I did. I have learned a lot more about the way my unit operates, and that knowledge is directly improving my ability to train and advise them on their operations. John LeCarre once wrote, "A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world." That generally applies here. (Okay, I admit, my desk is a rather safe place, but the quote is not meant literally!) Anyway, the bottom line to all of this... well, the bottom two lines: it isn't as bad as you imagine (and I can't explain why), and for others out here, Navy, Coast Guard, or otherwise, they're in a different job and if they say they're not going outside, they're not going outside.