For the last four months I’ve been living in Tampa, working at US Central Command (CENTCOM). The job in Tampa was a “deployment” in Air Force language. It may not make sense to “deploy” to Tampa, but in fact, there are many “deployers” working 6-month stretches at CENTCOM.
Originally, I was slated to deploy to Iraq in June. However, that deployment was cancelled at the last minute. 72 hours later I was notified that I was going to Tampastan. While most deployments are six months long, I was backfilling for a Lt Col who’s daughter got seriously ill. The Air Force sent him home and send me to cover his remaining four months. While it would be logical for them to keep me there for the total six months, the Air Force kept me there only for four months as to not disturb the existing deployment schedule.
At CENTCOM I was an Executive Officer for the Plans, Policy, and Strategy Division (CENTCOM/CCJ5). While my deployment orders described my position as an Engagements Officer (whatever that is), that is not what they had me doing. I was working for a 2-star Marine general, two Army 1-star generals, one 1-star Air Force general, a British 1-star Army general, and an Australian 1-star Navy commodore. My primary duties were to support an Army general for the first couple of months and then to support the British Brigadier. In addition, I helped out our Senior Development Advisor from USAID, especially in meeting her SharePoint needs.
Work involved managing calendars, answering phone calls, and coordinating meetings. During this time CENTCOM conducting the planning for the Singar Mountain evacuation (never done) and the counter-ISIL operations in Iraq and Syria (in execution now). I got to see how the planning happened, and was able to influence the plans, although very slightly unfortunately.
For most of us in the military the inner workings of a Component Command is a black box. I was inside the box this time and saw how a concept was matured into a plan, and how the military interacts with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), and the White House. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
I was fortunate to work with some great other officers and enlisted personnel. The days were long and the weekends were short. I have never wanted to be an Executive Officer in my career and that was a good thing. I don’t think I could do this as my full-time job. It may depend greatly on who you are supporting, but my main gripe is that I was a facilitator in getting the work done, but not a contributor to the actual efforts. So many times I’ve wanted to comment or discuss the details of the plans with the authors to figure out something to be reminded that I was only a glorified secretary. For some personalities this may be acceptable, but I’m all about producing products.
I did end up producing some things, mostly Share Point sites. I created a nice calendaring system for the office, a site for USAID to share their reports and strategy, and some other smaller sites. Despite only being there for four months, my fingerprints will be at CENTCOM for quite some time.
As deployments go, you can’t get much better. Not only was I only six hours from home, Amy and Adrian stayed with me for a good part of the time. It was great to be there to see Adrian grow up. Even Nadia came down. Amy and Adrian spent a great deal of their time at the Grazer Children’s Museum in downtown Tampa. If you have kids and are in Tampa, you must go… it is a two story playground for kids and quite a fun time for Adrian. It would even be better if Adrian was a bit older.
I’m now back home and still unpacking and trying to figure out what I’m going to be doing back at Eglin. My old office is now gone, so I’m a nomad at work awaiting some guidance as to what they want me to do. It is a bit frustrating, but on the good side is that now I can focus on my post-retirement career. I’ll be putting in my retirement paperwork sometime before the new year, with a retirement date of 1 October (assume they approve that date).