Not since my time as a 1st Lieutenant have I had my own office. It seems as I gained rank and moved up in the world, my workspace has actually shrunk! As a captain and as a major, I have inevitably found myself working out of a cubicle. The shapes have varied; the size has pretty much stayed the same. The lack of privacy can be maddening. But it is the price I pay for having the amazing jobs I have had. Can you imagine how big the Pentagon would have to be for everyone to have their own office?! So if you will indulge me for a few minutes, I will go back in time and reminisce about my old offices.
As a second lieutenant platoon commander in 2001 (yes, I know I’m dating myself), I had an office in a condemned building. The Marine Corps didn’t have the money (or the desire) to make the necessary upgrades to the building that would bring it back into code. For years, it was condemned, ready for demolition. But being the efficient organization that it is, the Marine Corps saw fit to use the building right up until the moment the demolition crew came through. So it became my platoon office space. My office was fairly spacious, if modest. There were no windows, so it sometimes felt like a cleaning closet. But the door shut, and my Marines respected a close door (privacy, quiet!).
As a first lieutenant logistics officer in 2002-04, I had my own office. Even more spacious than my platoon commander office, it had large, sunny windows. Located in the commanding officer’s building, it was decidedly not condemned. The door to that office also, mercifully, shut. I even had a buffer. My warrant officer had his office immediately next to mine, so the Marines had to go through his office to get to me. It was amazingly nice to have a warning that someone was coming my way. For nine years, that all changed. And I would occasionally reminisce about my offices, when I had less rank and less experience. Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? You gain rank and experience, and bigger and better offices? Sigh.
While I was at Camp Lejeune this past spring (fast forward to 2013 – and 9 years of living in a cubicle), I had my own office. It was a wonderful feeling, being able to shut the door again. But there were Marines in my office so often that I did not feel like I truly had my own office. In the mad rush to prepare for the deployment, and my added responsibilities as company commander, my office became an active workspace and gathering place.
Upon arriving in Afghanistan, I also had my own office. In a converted forty-foot metal shipping container, I had a desk made out of two by fours, and a plywood door. Sigh. This too, was my own office. This too, represented a time so busy that the door offered no safe haven, no protection from the incessant requirements for my time and attention to the Marines and the mission.
During the past two weeks, we moved our entire operation up the street (yes, there are “streets”, complete with STOP signs, speed limits and speeding tickets out here – but that’s a story for another day) three blocks. On this lot, there were three semi-permanent buildings erected. My company office resides in the middle building. And I have my own office. No more plywood. Just as busy. But for some reason this feels different.
My office at Camp Lejeune was always designed to be temporary. The spaces we occupied were temporary; we were only there to prepare for deployment. The shipping container turned office was also temporary, and felt extraordinarily expeditionary! This office will be the Retrograde Operations Company Commander’s office for the duration of the Marine Corps mission in Afghanistan – as “permanent” as it gets. It has a real door, with a lock and a key, which I actually use. It has a coffee pot, and the awesome electric teakettle that a friend sent me for my birthday.
Back at the Pentagon, only full colonels and flag officers have their own offices. I took pictures of my office, just so I could send them to my friends. That may seem silly and immature. Being the responsible, seasoned and mature individual that I am, I will probably be able to restrain myself from such behavior. But you never know . . . after all, I return in a few months, back to the world of the cubicle.