Yesterday we got together to wish farewell to Major Derek Cheff of Canuckistan (aka Canadia). I realized this morning that I haven't mentioned anybody else going home in a while, so I figured it was a good time to catch up on farewells for folks from the office.
Last month, moments before we began most of our pain and suffering for the PRT Conference, LT Darrell "DJ" Jones, USN was pulled and sent home. DJ had been in Kabul for just over twenty months and was in the process of trying to extend his tour for the fourth of fifth time. Unbeknownst to us all, someone in the admin chain wasn't paying attention and another reservist, LCDR "Vic" Vale, was recalled to active duty and sent here to replace him. Since the Navy doesn't want to pay two people to fill one billet, it was time for DJ to go home. I won't mention how infuriating this was for DJ or Vic, who was yanked from his regularly scheduled life to come play Army for a few months.
DJ's send-off was a good time. We got together for pizza and jokes and the customary gift exchange. At this point we'd gotten into a bit of a rut of giving everyone who left the office one of the small Afghan "war rugs" (available at fine rug shops throughout Afghanistan) inscribed with the year they were here. The problem in DJ's case is that he was here for at least part of three different years. I came up with the solution:
Since DJ's in the Navy, I figured he could also use an official burgee from the Kabul Yacht Club:
Since there's no shortage of sailors here in Kabul, I'm thinking I'll have Kabul Yacht Club t-shirts printed up too. "Kabul Yach Club: we've got plenty of sailors, now we just need boats... and a body of water... and liquor...."
While I was camped out at Camp Souter in preparation for the PRT Conference, the rest of the office got together to celebrate the departure of LCOL Rolf Helenius of the Finnish Army. I wasn't there, so I don't have any pictures. Instead, here's a shot of me and Rolf during DJ's farewell:
Rolf's farewell was also the occasion to bid farewell to Commander Dan "Dozer" Dwyer, the former chief of our office who was back in town just long enough to pick up his bags, shake hands with everyone, and take off again. Last week CDR Hanley, CDR Dwyer's replacement, was shipped back to the states as well.
Finally, last night was Derek Cheff's farewell. With him gone, I am now the longest-standing member of the office. Not that that means anything. Since Derek has already bought himself a small fortune in large Afghan rugs, we didn't bother getting him one of those. Instead, since he's been having such a hard time finding a furry hat he likes in the office, we got him a couple to choose from:
A while back we'd had a discussion about the wide array of medals I'll get for my deployment to Afghanistan.* The Canadians in the office were pointing out that they don't hand out decorations as freely as the Americans do, so I decided to remedy that by presenting Major Cheff with the HQ ISAF Staph Campaign Medal:
It's a cold-cast bronze medal of my own design which, in my mind, symbolizes much of the way we do business here:
and yes, I'm happy with my spelling on the medal. A "staff" is a group of people that gets things done. "Staph" is short for "Staphylococcus" a common bacteria that is a leading cause of a lot of problems and discomfort. I'm a fan of analogy.
So that's that.
Of course, for every quality person that departs, a quality person steps up to take their place. So we've still got a great group of people in the office. If all goes according to plan, I'm the next person scheduled to depart the pattern. And then it'll be LCOL Asbjorn Skogestad of Norway who will have been here the longest:
*For my trouble here I'll end up with a minimum of six decorations; a NATO medal, an Afghan Campaign medal, Overseas Service medal (gold star in lieu of 2nd award), Rifle Sharpshooter ribbon, Pistol Expert medal, and a Naval Reserve medal (which I get for actually showing up once I was recalled). There's also a chance I'll get an end of tour award. All of this assumes that I don't come under fire or meet an IED, in which case I'll also get a Combat Action ribbon at the very least. I will have a very shiny shirt when I'm done here.