Thursday, November 20, 2008

Groundhog Day

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the great Bill Murray's classic "Groundhog Day". "Groundhog Day" embodies what Iraq is and can become. The premise of the movie is that Bill Murray visits Punxsatony, PA to cover Phil the Groundhog's Big Day. Bill Murray, like his character in the great Christmas movie "Scrooged", doesn't appreciate the holiday and the assignment. His bad "karma" results in him being cursed to relive Groundhog Day again and again. At first he reacts negatively to reliving the same day again and again, even going homicidal and killing the lil' groundhog. Eventually he learns to appreciate it and seeks to better himself and of course, win Andie McDowell's affections. He learns French, plays the piano, saves little children and becomes a town celebrity, all while covering the groundhog for his new-station. It's quite funny, but shows just what one can do if one has to relive the same day over and over. Which brings us to Iraq.

Obviously ever Iraq experience is different. Reliving the same day has to be viewed in a manner that DOES NOT breed complacency. Complacency is a hidden enemy that leads to accidents and mistakes that can result in real serious consequences. So the first requirement is being careful and mindful of that dangerous possibility. But as a Staff Officer, my Iraq time is truly Groundhog Day. I'm trapped in Bill Murray's hell, only I'm not enjoying a nice bed and breakfast in beautiful Punxsatony, PA. I'm in a trailer in not quite as beautiful Diyala, Iraq.

Every day I'm in the office NLT 0700 to review the INTSUM and prepare it for the boss. I check my email; I usually get over 50 emails during the course of the night so it takes about an hour to review all of those. You would find it hard to believe, but there is such a thing as SPAM email in Iraq. I can't tell you who puts it out, but trust me, there is an Iraqi equivalent over here. I have a morning brief with the Commander where we look at the last 24 hours and what's coming up. The middle of the day can change depending on what exciting meetings I have to attend or on whether or not I go outside of the wire with the Commander. The end of the day involves wrapping up the day’s work and prepping for tomorrow.

It's really not a bad life and day when you think of it. It's usually long and the constant repetition does sap a lot out of you. But, it’s how you deal with any sense of "monotony" that really colors your deployment. If you let it beat you down, the deployment will drag and productivity can suffer. If you just take each day for what it is, a gift (even if it is in Iraq) and another day, they can move a little quicker and you get a little more satisfaction out of your day. In a way that is the lesson of Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day". You can either let the repetition beat you down, destroying your morale, and impacting your relationship with others, or you can take each day as a new day, no matter how similar to the one before that and meet it head on. So Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day" is a good way at looking at how to thrive, not just survive, a deployment to Iraq.

That being said, someone needs to hurry up and invent a teleportation device, so we can commute to Iraq and Afghanistan.

I hope everyone enjoyed this today, a slightly more humorous look at Iraq. So, go rent Groundhog Day or get it on Netflix or iTunes and enjoy the Bill Murray classic.

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