Home of the secret squirrels
Believe it or not, I got hassled for taking the picture here. In case you’re wondering, it’s a photo of the secret squirrel headquarters food court; hardly considered to be a sensitive location under the most restrictive of circumstances, but apparently enough to draw a young sergeant’s attention. After I snapped the photo, he approached (both of us in civilian clothes) and introduced himself. He politely informed me that we weren’t allowed to take pictures anywhere, and so I shouldn’t make it so obvious that I was doing so. I equally politely informed him that the photography policy letter was posted right by the entrance to the DFAC, and that photos were explicitly allowed as long as they didn’t include any sensitive areas (like the perimeter, entry points, secure areas, etc.). He said that he was just repeating what he was told, and we went our separate ways.
It illustrated a classic problem in the Army: the idea of “adding to but not taking away from” policies, directives, and regulations. It works like this: some level of command issues a policy that says X. When viewed at that level, the policy seems entirely reasonable and appropriate, so it’s sent down the chain. The problem is that each successive layer of command, in an effort to meet the higher echelon’s intent, adds its own interpretations and restrictions to the policy, figuring that by narrowing the boundaries they can make sure everyone colors inside the lines. By the time some policy from on high reaches something like a platoon, the thing that started as X ends up looking like (((((X)+1)+Y)+2)+Z). Thus, a policy that limits photography to non-sensitive areas only becomes a policy that bans all photography (easier to enforce) and logically leads to making cameras contraband items and inspecting barracks to ferret out such devices. After all, you can’t be wrong that way, right? It sounds ridiculous but such is the mentality sometimes. It’s also an example of “second and third order effects” that everyone needs to be aware of when making decisions that will be carried out by people far away and not under your direct control.
Meanwhile, more and more people arrive at the camp; maybe new units, maybe some rotating out of Iraq already. The DFAC is a madhouse at lunch now, with lines stretching out into the hot sun from both doors for almost the whole lunch period. It’s a minor irritation, since the line moves quickly, but I can’t help but direct my silent ire at the wearers of each new unit patch that shows up, as if they’re each personally responsible for the delay.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen in Iraq (and even if I did, I couldn’t tell it here), but strangely our brigade’s job might not be much different in 2012 after our withdrawal is complete. Bases will still need to be guarded, convoys will still need escorts, camps will still need command and control; the end of this eight years of war might be a giant anticlimax for us who are still in it. For the other units, based in Iraq, the change will be drastic, but for us REMFs, life at Fort Hood East Campus will go on much the same as before.