The Marines from RCT2 do not have mixed feelings about leaving Iraq. They are going home after a job well done and they are happy to be done with Iraq, at least for the time being. Marine units are self contained. They take what they need with them and when they get back to North Carolina they will have most of the same duties, friendships & relationships. It is not like the FS, where we move as individuals, but as an individual left behind by the group I am in a melancholy mood despite the joyful noise all around me. My friends are leaving and I probably will never see them again.
We have been living close together. We sleep in the same can cities, eat at the same chow hall & fly on the same helicopters. You do not have any friends at home that you do not have at work and there is nobody you know that everybody else doesn’t also know. Work merges with personal life and there is no genuine privacy. While this has its costs, this situation creates a strong feeling of shared purpose and community, but as a civilian I am adjunct – someone in the community, not of it. I usually do not feel this very acutley; today I do.
I hear stories about retired military guys hanging around bases. They use to commissaries and PX not so much to save money as to maintain their affiliations. The military is a very encompassing culture. It is hard for anybody to just give it up.
The new guys from RCT5 seem great. I met some of them at PRT training courses in Washington in September. Everyone has been supportive and friendly. I am sure I will have equally productive relationships with the new team. The Marines design their system so that individual personalities will not affect the integrity of the unit and the mission, but people still matter. I know I will make new friends among the new Marines. I have already started, but I still can be sad that my old friends are leaving.