A few weeks ago, we got word that none other than General David H. Petraeus would be dropping by our Forward Operating Base (FOB).
To say that General Petraeus has reached nearly legendary status within the US military would be an understatement. Colonel Gian Gentile, professor of history at West Point, has noted that there is a "popular narrative" of the Surge of 2007--with General Petraeus placed squarely in the center as the catalyst for turning around the war effort with a new counterinsurgency strategy. While Gentile is correct in that there are noticable flaws within the popular narrative, and that General Petraeus should not receive all the credit for the drastic reduction in violence (Sunni concerned local citizens, the completion of the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad, disbanding of the Mahdi Army, and a myriad of other factors--not the least of which were the tireless efforts of over 100,000 service members), it should be noted that General Petraeus certainly played a key role in organizing and focusing our counterinsurgency efforts.
As a result, General Petraeus has become one of the most well-known generals since General Colin Powell. When we found out he was coming to visit our FOB, we thought we'd strategically position ourselves in order to catch a glimpse of him. Maybe even get him to sign a copy of "The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the Surge of 2007". After all, since he hasn't released a book of his own, that's about the closest we can get to an autobiography.
Unfortunately, we got some erroneous information about his itinerary. As a result, we wound up waiting in the dining facility for a visit that really wasn't supposed to happen for a few hours.
Hilarity thus ensued...
As we sat down, positioning ourselves near the doorway, we wondered how he would make an entrance. I mean, he's General Petraeus, after all...
"I bet he kind of descends from the ceiling with fireworks going off, like KISS".
Although that was a joke, there are a lot of true stories about General Petraeus that actually are near-superhuman (and certifiably true). For example, during a live-fire exercise at Fort Bragg, then-Lt. Col. Petraeus was accidentaly shot through the chest with an M-16 round. After being discharged from the hospital, Lt. Col. Petraeus performed fifty push-ups, with no rest stops.
Another story (which we reported on at WOI) involved General Petraeus waking a wounded Soldier from a coma with a shout of "Currahee", the motto of the 101st Airborne Division.
In order to pass the time until General Petraeus was to arrive, we spent the time paying homage to these acts the only way we knew how--by re-wording all of the Chuck Norris facts into General Petraeus facts.
Just then, we saw the lights flicker, and heard the cough of the generator in the dining facility. The dining facilty descended into a quiet darkness...
"This is it! This is his entrance!"
We waited for pyrotechnics in order to signal General Petraeus' arrival, but sadly, no General Petraeus. Soon afterwards, the generator kicked back on, and light flooded the dining facility.
"Aha! This is his grand, let-there-be-light entrance", I proclaimed.
But once again, no General Petraeus.
We waited for a few minutes and left, my copy of "The Gamble" unsigned. But I learned a few things from the experience:
1.) General Petraeus is an exceptional military leader
2.) He is still a human being.