It eventually sunk in as to what exactly I had gotten myself into. I was an Intelligence Officer at a US Base in Iraq, during the Occupation Phase of that War. And I would be there for three months. Not as long as most soldiers. But longer than anyone I knew at the time.
When I was offered this deployment, I was asked by the assigning officer, "How long do you want to be there?"
In my naivete, I asked, "What's a normal deployment?"
She said, "Three months."
I replied, "Then give me that."
I was then and remain so naive...
When I arrived, I learned that my boss had arrived just prior to my arrival and he would be leaving in a month.
And then my next boss arrived, who said, "Looking forward to working with you for the next month."
When my third boss arrived in August with the news that he would be there for a month, I inquired as to the normal tours of duty of civilian intelligence officers at this time in the war.
And I learned that ONE MONTH was the norm!
She had the problem of finding Arabic linguists to man that base, but I had, through my naivete, given her essentially two months off!
In the final month of my service on that base, the CIA Station Chief was regularly calling me into his office to ask me questions about things that had happened in June and early July, because I WAS THE ONLY PERSON ON BASE WHO WAS THERE IN THAT TIME FRAME!!!!
And then, with just a week before I was scheduled to leave, I got a call from the assigning officer.
She was asking me if I might be willing to stay an extra month. It was immediately obvious that, with two months off from worrying about that post, she had dropped the ball on finding my replacement.
I told her in no uncertain terms that the answer was no.
Because, it shot through my mind, imagine this guy goes to Iraq for three months, he survives it, despite mortar attacks and sniper fire that did happen while I was there. And then, he agrees to stay another month and...
I was not going to stay there another month for the even remote potential of the "and..."
She was annoyed by my answer, but that was now her problem.
I had dreamed of overlap with my replacement, but instead, she moved one agent from this place, to fill in for this agent to that place.
I ended up shaking hands with my replacement at the airport. He arrived on the plane I flew out on.
The trail of this article took me to my departure, but I'm not at all done sharing the emotional side of my deployment. When I resume, I will be back in Iraq in late June, as the attacks were about to begin....