So, this second leg of my vacay is Tampa. Well, what is there to do in Tampa? Visit CENTCOM of course!
I put out a plea to one of my email groups asking if anyone could get me into CENTCOM and Carrie came through. She hooked me up via email with Lt Col. Mike Bodkin, USMC. Now I would guess not many people ask to come visit Mike at work, but he was very gracious and took time out of his busy day to talk to me on the phone and we set up a time for me to come by.
I was there at the gate barely in time. Do you know that it can take several days to travel just a few miles down Dale Mabry Boulevard???? OK, I am exaggerating just a little bit. Once I get there and have no credentials what-so-ever, I was redirected to the pass office. I'm used to this sort of thing and I know to have something on hand to entertain myself such as a book or the phone, so I can Tweet.
I got my stuff and headed for the gate again. Mike had told me to ask for directions to building 540. Easy enough, right? LOL, the guard at the gate looked at my day pass, walked around my totally cool Smart car that I had rented for the day and then started to wave me through. "I need directions to Building 540, please." my pen & wheelbook at the ready. "What is that?" the guard asked. "I don't know numbers" I almost laughed out loud, I was already way late for meeting Lt Col Bodkin....now I was going to be driving around blind. But the guard did know where CENTCOM headquarters was and I headed off.
I couldn't see anywhere to park, so I called up to Mike's office. He wasn't available, but I got his charming Brit coworker who guided me in by having me park at the "BX". At first i thought he was making fun of my perfectly proper way of speaking which some people feel compelled to comment on...... But no, Dave announced he was the Brit in the group and proceeded to give me better turn-by-turn directions than the navigation system in the car.
It was Dave, who is at CENTCOM as a coalition partner, that came down to meet me and get me in. He was a very gracious tour guide and ran through CENTCOM's mission, AOR - If you go to the Central Command website and click on the link in the upper right hand corner there is a nice interactive map of their AOR - "area of operation". Dave pointed out a picture on the wall of General David Petraeus....I didn't name drop and tell Dave that I knew who GEN Petraeus and had in fact had lunch with him on Wednesday!
I think the thing that Dave & Mike most clearly reinforced for me was the importance of the coalition partners and the value of jointness. Which is pretty funny since I would say that was one of the two biggest themes of Joint Warfighting conference. My two trips dovetailed pretty well. We discussed jointness & communicating with our allies in theory in Virginia Beach and I saw it in practice in Tampa.