The Benefits Of Serving
I've been touched by all the good wishes from Facebook friends and family members this Veteran's Day -- it seems like people are more aware of the holiday this year than in years past. While serving in the Armed Forces is undoubtedly a sacrifice, many of us enjoyed benefits other than the good feelings of our fellow citizens. I'm thinking, of course, of boondoggles.
They set me up in a two BR apartment in St. Petersburg and had me take over the "Coalition Financial Ops" desk in the Iraq Coalition Coordination Center from a Navy CDR who was leaving in three days. As I was turning over, I found out that I was basically in charge of figuring out how to set up a system for handling over $500M of funds to help support the 30-odd countries getting set to provide troops in Iraq in August '03. I had a memo from Condoleezza Rice saying we could use the money, a four page memorandum of understanding between us and Poland that was mostly generalities, a slightly longer MOU between Poland and the other countries that had even more generalities, and an E-mail cache -- and that was about it. Needless to say, it concerned me a little that there weren't any procedures set up ahead of time, and I was even more concerned that a Navy O-4 with no real financial training was supposed to come up with these procedures.The whole time I was in Tampa, I got regular food per diem plus a car, along with the 2BR apartment (that cost the Navy more than what I was paying for rent for my 4BR house in San Diego -- the contracting people out there weren't very good negotiators.) I also got three 5 day trips to Warsaw as part of my duties. While I worked hard during those trips for several hours a day (and I got stuff done that I wouldn't have been able to do from Tampa), I really enjoyed having them put us up in a really nice hotel and have enough per diem money to enjoy the folk dancing and other cultural activities.