Sorry about not writing for awhile. I arrived safely back in Iraq, via Kuwait. My trip & being back in Iraq is my new normal. I have written about such things before. You can only go on your first helicopter or c-130 ride once.
I have been involved in some inside management issues, which I was not going to write about, but as I consider it, I think it might be important to mention some of the prosaic things that occupy a lot of our time here, so here are a few.
Five new team members have arrived in the last couple of weeks. Let me introduce them.
I have a new deputy and he is a great guy. As a retired USAF bird colonel, my new deputy knows the military and how to manage a team. He also worked as a program manager in Baghdad, so he knows the inside game there. We have already developed a good working relationship. We agree on goals and seem to have complementary skill sets. I do not think I could have hoped for a better situation.
Our economic and budget specialist is a young man on his first tour outside the U.S. He is also exactly what I need at this time. In October, we got a budget for making grants to stimulate projects among the Iraqis. My team and I were extremely enthusiastic about these things. It allowed us to build influence and complete project that would create an environment unpleasant for the insurgency (our mission). But all grants require accounting and all projects must be tracked. All of us were into doing. We had a bias for action. This is good, but you can action yourself right out of business. I was beginning to become seriously concerned. Now I got somebody who has the skills and inclination to take on the task.
The new civil affairs man is an Army Lieutenant Colonel with experience in Iraq. I am asking him to be our man in Rawah/Anah. This is a place we have needed someone for a long time. He has been working hard to get up to speed on the tribal and civil relationships and he has the experience to command respect. I am confident that we can expect good things from him.
Just yesterday we got two new bicultural-bicultural specialists. Since I just met them, I cannot say anything in particular. They are native Arabic speakers and both have experience working with coalition forces in Iraq. I insisted that our colleagues be American citizens and have security clearances and both our new guys fit the bill. We work very well with Iraqi citizen translators in the field, but on the base it is hard for anyone to work w/o a clearance and only American citizens can get one. It is a bit of a myth that we do not have enough Americans who speak Arabic. This may have been the case a few years ago, but we now are doing okay with finding and hiring fluent American citizen Arabic speakers.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of team leader in an isolated, intense and stressful environment like ours is to balance the personalities, skills & predilections of team members. Team member skills are complementary and the team leader has to make sure these synergies work. Not everybody can work in this environment. The day before yesterday I lost one of my team members. He arrived only a couple months ago and has not been a strong performer. He went down to Baghdad for some routine work and never came back. He literally fled the country mentioning that he had enough. Since he was a contractor, that is his prerogative to quit, but I have never before experienced anything like this before. I keep on thinking of that rhyme, “when in danger when in doubt, run in circles scream and shout.”
I have thought about what I might have done to help him out, but have concluded that his leaving was the best thing for us all. I am not sympathetic. I probably should have pushed him out sooner. He was not working out well. My job is to help my team accomplish our common goals and it is my duty to ensure they do. Most of my team is great and they would perform even w/o my efforts. Those who cannot or will not do that should go home. I don’t want to create an environment where the non-productive can feel comfortable. It may sound mean and I don’t think of myself as a mean person, but that is the way it has to be in our particular situation.