Thursday, May 17, 2012

Farewell Friends

Well it's been awhile, partly due to leave, but also due to all the changes.  With the RIPTOA (turnover) there's a whole new cast of characters, and I've had to say goodbye to all the old ones.

As somebody who is pretty accustomed to living in communities where 1/3 to 1/2 depart every summer this isn't new territory, but it is still tiring, and intriguing to see the different approach that the military put on it.

Ceremonially, they are much more thorough than us civilians, officially marking the handoff from one unit to another with something called a (you guessed it) RIPTOA.  There are short speeches, music, and a bunch of people standing in formation - and then banner of the unit "on the ground" is furled by the commander and Command Seargeant Major (CSM) - next the banner of the incoming unit is trotted out and unfurled and its done. Similarly, there are farewell meetings to present certificates of appreciation and other gifts and honors, like the battalion coin and so forth.

RIPTOA - Goodbye TF Maverick, Howdy TF Defender

Socially, it felt a bit more awkward than the "hail and farewell" events that are a staple of Embassy life, where the departing families are sent off and the new ones welcomed. Mostly this is a logistical issue, because with the number and uncertainties of movement it can be a month or more to actually get somebody out of theater. As a result of that combined with my own erratic travel, I ended up saying farewell to some people a dozen times, and others got whisked out prior to the RIPTOA without a word.

Of course I made sure to say proper farewells to my closest team members, and enjoy a final chat with the Professor, CPT Esquire, and of course Papa Duck. We had a small ceremony (2 actually), the exchange of personal emails, and chatted over drinks (caffeinated). I got a few final tactical survival tips (hide behind the engine not the door of a car in a firefight) - thanked them for making me at least an honorary member of their "band of brothers" - and wished them safe travels.

Now I'm breaking in the new team, trying to come up with clever nicknames, and finding myself both thrilled and distressed that I have less than 90 days before I follow in their footsteps.  The new team seems great, though things are still shaking out in terms of who is where doing what, but I've gotten accustomed to the dizzying pace of change here, and am very encouraged by the fact that one of my new mates has already been christened with a nickname by the afghans, and I'm encouraged about the future of Afghanistan that the soldiers think highly enough of her spiking abilities on the volleyball court to name her in honor of a favorite weapon - "RPG".

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