Saturday, August 23, 2008

Notes From the Homefront, Bailey the Cat #5: On The Move. Again.

For reasons that are beyond my kitty understanding, my mommy (and I guess my daddy) decided we should move again. I've moved a lot in my life, so I should not be surprised that we are moving again.

My mommy is having a tough time because my daddy had to go away again and she hates moving. Those two things combined to mean that she needed my help getting ready to go to the new place and Dad told me its my job to help mommy. As you can see here, I was quite the help. First, I helped mommy get her clothes together. As you can see here, I am making sure Mommy's new suit doesn't go anywhere.

After that I was tired and had to take a nap.

Then I helped to pull out the suitcase for Mommy to pack.

As expected, I had to take a nap after that as well.

After we got everything packed, we moved to the new place. Mommy says we are "house sitting" for a few weeks until we can be in our new home. I like the place we are living because it has lots of windows and trees and birdies. The only down side is the dog who lives here too.

His name is Elvis and he likes to sleep in the bed with Mommy and me. He is ok for a dog, but I don't think dogs should sleep in the bed. Mom says its only for a few weeks and then I won't have to share the bed with a dog anymore. Until then, I'm happy to be helping my Mommy and watching new birdies.

While I wasn't blogging...

Mrs. Exnicios did her part to keep things going over at Really Nothing Special. Among my favorites:

Army wife musings, including this NYTs piece (which I didn't like as much as Lauren--it's called a post, Army wife, not a "base").

A recap of our adventures during leave (my mid-tour, Lauren's ETS) with exciting pictures, including the shot of me and Abigail shown here.

Spot-on deconstruction of one of the least socially responsible McDonald's commercials I've ever seen. Not that McDonald's hasn't been positioning itself as a childhood ego and self-esteem booster for years, but still.

I think my Haas colleagues at the Center for Responsible Business have some more work to do.

In Honor of Megan's post in honor of Bernie Mac...

Bernie Mac slapping people is funny.

As is Head of State, generally. RIP, Mr. Mac.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Greetings from another branch of the Bardill Family

Mrs. Bardill (grandmother of little Abigail and the third from the right) took a moment out of her birthday celebration to say hi to the 2.0. Hope all is well out your way, Mrs. Bardill!

Shameless hyperbole from the Times?

I guess I won't presume to call this Times editorial shameless, but is it hyperbolic? You bet your ass it is.

Money quote:

"These investments [in Afghanistan] will take time to pay off. But seven years have already been wasted, and unless such efforts begin now there will be no safe exit from Afghanistan for the foreseeable future." (emphasis added)

Sheesh, New York Times, tell us how you really feel.

That said, I think everyone agrees that, even with the step up in troop levels, Afghanistan will require the attention of the international community for years to come.

Greetings from Berkeley

The Full-Time MBA Office at Haas, my MBA alma mater dear, recently checked in to say hi. Amy, Julia, Kate and Dan, I hope you're all doing great, and thanks for the awesome picture!

Farewell redux

More than 3 months ago we said goodnight and good luck to IRR blogging stalwart Jason.

Well, much to my delight Jason made a cameo over at his old blog the other day to let us all know how he's doing, and to officially announce that the blogging has come to an end. Thanks for the good times, Jason.

It's really weird to think that Jason and Kevin (who chose to take down his blog, which lives on in our hearts all the same) have been home for 3 or 4 months already. And Jeff, Chris and I are still here in Afghanistan--a country whose security situation has set the Newspaper of record to running around screaming with its hair on fire--fighting the fight.

Only a few--hell, a couple--months left to go, though.

It's interesting to look forward to the type of readjustment challenges that Jason mentions. Lauren--I think that a trip touring Europe for three weeks might help us adjust, too!

And for the record, this marks the fifth post in the last 9 months where I've used the word "redux" in the title. It's true, I have a problem...

Not Enough Majors? Say it ain't so!!

The headline for this WaPo article focuses on the deployment cycle has led to a decline in Majors in the Army. Fair enough.

When you read the article, though, the point is raised that many majors are choosing to retire right at the 20 year mark (presumably to avoid further deployments), and this is presented as one of the most significant reasons for the current dearth. To that I say--maybe.***

Remember a couple years ago (and this year, even) when all sorts of fuss was being made about the lack of CAPTAINS in the Army? Well, what happens when you take a Captain, add water, and wait 4-6 years? You get a Major, that's what.

So even if the reduction in Captains hasn't propagated through to the Major ranks yet, it will soon. The Class of 2000 at West Point famously fled the Army in 2005. Assuming we take those folks as representative of Army officers, that particular "year group" will, even with soaring promotion rates to Major, have trouble filling all the spots that need filling. Those officers got their first look at Major this year (which, scarily enough, means I get my first look NEXT YEAR!!1!)

What about the Majors retiring at 20? Well, the only Majors who can do that are those that served in the enlisted ranks prior to being commissioned as officers. When the group of Majors starting to retire went through OCS 10-15 years back, OCS represented a relatively small portion of officers commissioned in a given year. The Army has, of course, stepped up efforts in recent years to commission sergeants into officers (to boost it's sagging number of Captains, of course) but again, this is a recent phenomenon.

Wow, lots of wonky ranting to suck down in this post...sorry 'bout that. The point of all of this is that I don't completely buy the anecdotal evidence being presented in this article. I'd really love to see the numbers the Army's Human Resource Command (no stranger to the 2.0) is looking at as they attempt to manage officer strength.

***Another key reason cited in the article is that the Army is growing itself in absolute terms, which of course means they need more officers to man the force. This fact indisputably affects the shortfall.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Totally Didn't Post While Home...

As anyone who has stopped by in the last few weeks noticed, it turns out that I didn't take the time to post at all while home on my mid-tour leave. It was a great leave, though, and I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see my beautiful wife for a couple of weeks (or how hard it was to say goodbye again).

My tour, as I've mentioned, is winding down, and if the last two weeks are any indication, I have yet to convince myself that I'll continue to blog once I'm home. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, but...

I began my blogging adventure with certain goals in mind, and I've been trying to assess whether I've achieved what I set out to do.

First and foremost, I wanted this forum to serve as a road map to anyone coming through the IRR pipeline who is as in the dark as I was in June 2007. By any measure, I've achieved that goal. After an initial dump of information last June/July/August I've cut back on details and toned down the sarcasm, but there still aren't a lot of places on the web that will give future "Civil Affairs Operators" more info about what they're getting themselves into. Google terms related to this blog, and you'll find I show up pretty high in most of the search results.

Going forward, I'll post a bit about the leave process, and what demobilization is like, and call it a day.

My second stated goal was to use this forum as a way to keep up with family and friends. I know some folks who check in every day, and many who stop by once in a while, and the 2.0 is always here for anyone who wants to see how things are going. There have been a few blogging gaps (including this one), and I wish that I'd updated the monthly summaries more often. But otherwise I think I've kept the content decently well organized. I hope everyone out there has and will continue to enjoy a look at a world that most of us don't get the opportunity to see very often.

My final goal, which I don't think I've ever stated outright, was to use the blog to brainstorm ways that my current experience in Afghanistan is applicable to my once and future career path as a business person. I haven't really addressed this issue explicitly to date, but I hope to make this the focus of my blog for the next several weeks (with all due respect to sports and pop culture) as I prepare to go home for good.

The early returns, incidentally, are pretty good. In particular, a working knowledge of negotiation theory, pricing, micro-econ, marketing and strategy have put me at a big advantage. With everyone's help I'm ready to start flushing out these stories, seeing which ones resonate, as I take stock of what I've learned and how I've grown as a business leader through my second go-round in the Army.