I just got an email from one of my friends from my year in the Joint Staff. He is retiring from the US military tomorrow. I think that means that there are no officers remaining in the US military from the 2001-2002 Central and Eastern European Division [CEED] of the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate J-5]. I could be wrong but the guy who was my immediate superior for my first month or two stepped down as commander of the 3rd infantry division last spring. The Colonel who was responsible for placing me in the Balkan pit of despair in the CEED is now a Lieutenant General and perhaps the "last man standing."
I am kind of surprised by this reality but should not be. As ten years is a long time in the US military--half a career. The US military is very much up or out, even before the budget cuts ahead.
The officers I worked with were very sharp, thoughtful, dedicated, engaged, engaging people. They committed at least 20 years of their lives to public service. I guess it would be unfair to ask to them to do more--very long hours, very challenging lives with heaps of moves and other dislocations.
Obviously, that one year in the Pentagon was a very formative experience for me, and it had as much or more to do with the people I worked with as much as it was the stuff that I was doing (just as college or grad school is as much/more about one's peers as it is about the profs). To them, I say thanks for not just giving me heaps of stories and improving my ability to resist incoming fire (I took a lot of friendly teasing that year), but for everything else.