23 February 2007

Military Family Life

When you're on active duty, the process of "getting orders" is a pretty big thing. Most places you're sent ("duty stations") have you for three years. There are a few places where you go for shorter periods, and you can extend for longer in some cases, but it's pretty much three years.

After that, you know there's a change a-comin'.

My active duty days were in the Marine Corps. I think we've established that Mr. Abby is a US Marine. So I feel entirely qualified, after 11 years of dealing with them, to announce the Marine Corps as the most adminsitratively tiresome of the branches. Seriously (and we're going to ignore the Coast Guard here for a second, although my Coasties know I love 'em), the Marine Corps is the smallest branch. How hard can it be to keep track of people?

Difficult, it seems. And pulling orders out of these people is always an adventure. Orders come in the form of a piece of paper, telling you WHERE and WHEN. Before you get the piece of paper, it's not abnormal to have 3-8 converations with your "monitor," that is, the person in Washington who moves all the Marines in your field around like pieces on a chessboard. It's entirely possible to have several different scenarios presented to you as "a done deal," and then get a piece of paper telling you you'll be performing a fourth scenario.

When the Bad Pups were here last summer, I kept trying to explain the process to them.

I likened it to getting a Christmas present from a crazy person. You have no idea what's in the box. Sometimes it's a warm, rolly beagle puppy. Sometimes it's a dead crow scraped off the highway. Sometimes it's four salamanders, and you have to decide how you feel about them. You just never know. And any time you think you know the mind of the Marine Corps Orders Process, well, you're wrong. You don't.

Abby, you say. You're doing that long way around thing again. Stop it.

Sorry. I do that.

Well, we GOT the box from the crazy person. And we opened it. And in it?

An armadillo.

Which of my readers can tell me about Dallas?