Monday, May 24, 2004

Hobnobbing with the brass

Unrestrained ogling is more like it. I row with an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who offered lunch and a tour of the Pentagon to me and one other girl from my class before her tour of duty changes in the fall and she no longer has escort privileges. I hadn't been in the Pentagon since I was about 18 months old and so of course remember nothing. Plus, post-9/11 there's a lot that's new/significantly different, etc.

Lunch was a very nice slightly formal affair (although you can choose from fast food, Sbarro, Dunkin' Donuts-type fare as well) at the Pentagon restaurant. Marilyn then took us through the Air Force, Navy, and Office of the Secretary of Defense wings. I went right by Rummy's lair and into the more swank sections of the building (i.e. where all the 4-stars live). The hallway leading up the OSD is one long tribute to Eisenhower--VERY cool--and then the Joint Chiefs section has amazing portraits of each man to hold the post going back to Omar Bradley. Also passed things like the US Navy Special Warfare office, Weapons of Mass Destruction Task Force (didn't see any--Surprise!) and so on. I have to say I was very impressed at how the Pentagon uses all that wall space to its advantage--there are exhibitions on every facet of military life, our partnerships with allies like Australia and New Zealand circa WWII (OF COURSE I noticed that part), women in the military (Marilyn was at USAFA w/ the first woman to fly the U-2 and her portrait was up as well, so that was my 6-degrees of separation moment for the day--WORD), etc. The interior courtyard was surprisingly verdant and tranquil. It has the tongue-in-cheek nickname "Ground Zero" which dates back to Cold War days when rumor had it that the Russians had zeroed in on the center of the building as a target for a nuclear strike. They erroneously believed that the courtyard recessed to allow a missile silo underneath to discharge its cache. Silly Russians.

Of course, we went by the various portions of the building that were hit/destroyed on September 11, 2001, and I saw the remaining building stone from the old building outside as well as the chapel and memorial spaces erected for all the victims and then the victims from each branch. The Army was predominant in that part of the Pentagon and so had a high proportion of the casualties from within its ranks. It was all truly well-thought out, tastefully done, and moving.

I don't think it will shock anyone to hear that I was like a kid in a candy store, smiling with unabashed glee through most of the walk-around. My love for the fellas and their uniforms is not a quality I do much to hide. My AIM away message said it all:

"Touring the Pentagon....nerve endings....sizzling....uniform overload" I could have thrown a "sigh" and "YOWZERS" in there for good measure, too. ;)


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