Friday, May 21, 2010

Souvenirs from NORAD and USNORTHCOM

What do the following items have in common with each other?
A really cute little-girl carry-on bag with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on it

A hand-crafted necklace with the words NORAD and USNORTHCOM discreetly worked in

A proof copy of the NORAD Jubilee book, Guarding What You Value Most
A supersized paper "coin" to commemorate NORAD and USNORTHCOM

 Answer: they were just some of the gag gifts given to me at the farewell party thrown for me today. There is a story to go with each item.

[Aside: The layout function for pictures in Blogger is seriously frustrating!]

The luggage is symbolic of the several Civic Leader Tours I carried out with my colleagues. These trips are killers from a logistical perspective. First, they are hosted by a four-star general officer. That means: high-profile, no-fail. Second, the guests are very senior community leaders. Think CEOs, directors. That means: high expectations, accustomed to having an admin assistant taking care of their every need. Third, they last five days and visit 10-12 military destinations across the United States (and sometimes Canada, but none did during my tenure). That means: coordination of a kazillion moving parts - with no allowance for a missed hand-off. These trips were exhilarating and exhausting, and helped me build real relationships with my colleagues: there was laughter and tears, panic and passing out. And occasionally a glass of wine.

The necklace is, in my opinion, the most artful way one could incorporate those command names into a piece of jewelry. Click on the picture to enlarge it and check out how she incorporated the letters! (Apology: I took the picture in a mirror so the letters are all inverse.) Kathleen created the necklace as a joke (because I'm always so well put together, or so they say), but I quite like it. Though I might remove the Mona Lisa pendant, I think, and the non sequitur turtle that doesn't show in the picture. :-)

The NORAD Jubilee Book was one of the key products to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the NORAD agreement. The year-long celebration was a huge project, and the book was just one small part of it. Most of my role on the book was just keeping the project moving. But I did have one critical part: I alphabetized the list of contributors to the Jubilee celebration. In so doing I accidentally deleted the name of one of the key contributors - he's the one who presented me with this gift. [I tried to insert a picture of the offending page here, but Blogger insisted on placing it perpendicular to the text. Grrr. I give up.]

The supersized paper coin represents the prestigious command coins, usually given to recognize a significant contribution or effort. The coins are usually small enough to slip into the palm of the hand and given as part of a handshake. (The real coins were out of stock, but the sentiment is still delivered.)

These were just a few of the humorous and meaningful gifts given to me today by a group of people who work hard together, respect each other and find fun every day in some goodhearted ribbing.

I once wrote that the military, by virtue of its transient lifestyle and its constant awareness of the sacrifice of human life, excels at saying goodbye. People don't just fade into the woodwork, they are celebrated and their contributions are honoured. Sometimes, as with the change of command at NORAD and USNORTHCOM this week, the pomp and ceremony are truly impressive. Other times, like today, the ritual is very personal and well considered, but it is part of the culture nevertheless. One of many, many things I will miss when I leave here.

P.S. I still have four more working days before I leave the job but, since my last day is the day before a 4-day weekend, we opted to do my send-off today. Otherwise no one would've shown up!

1 comment:

  1. Your were appreciated and loved, and will be missed by PA. now I get youall to myself. Mwaa-haa-haa!


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