I took this picture today, as the commander of ISAF, General Stanley McChrystal, paid us a visit. On the left is French Chief of Staff, General Georgelin.
Seems like everyone wants to stop by and thank the troops for the holidays.
A few days ago, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen paid us a visit. Mullen is the senior-most person in the U.S. Armed Forces. It was a short, quick visit. He met privately with French leadership, gave a quick pep talk, shook some hands and left.
Today, French General J.L. Georgelin, the French Chief of Staff (equivalent to Admiral Mullen) visited us today, primarily to speak with his French soldiers. Our American team was there in formation. And, although we couldn’t understand a word he said, we showed our solidarity with our French friends as he spoke.
Once he was finished, the French General dismissed his troops for an informal conversation over some light snacks. Most of our American team started to leave the formation, and returned to work (avoiding the uneasy feeling of being a non-french-speaker in a room full of Frenchmen.)
However, as people were enjoying their sodas, we heard more helicopters flying into the FOB. We figured it was just another routine drop-off/pickup, so we paid it no mind at first. I was casually glancing at the helicopters as the passengers unloaded. From where I was standing, I couldn’t tell who it was, but, whoever it was, he had a lot of people huddled around him as he made his way over to where we were gathered. As he came closer, a few of us started to recognize the party.
“General McChrystal’s here,” people started saying to one another. “McChrystal’s here!”
It was kind of like a celebrity sighting. French soldiers began asking him to have his picture taken with them. McChrystal politely obliged and shook some hands and talked with French and US troops. (I noticed that no French troops asked the French General, who some would argue outrank McChrystal, to take photographs. I found that situation a bit odd.)
No one knew McChrystal was coming, and we weren’t really prepared for his arrival. (I assume that’s how he preferred it.) I scrambled to round of the members of our American team, most of which had already left the area. After talking with most of the French troops, he made his way to our team. I took a few pics of him, and he and his party returned to their helicopters and departed.
Just like that.
Later, I realized that once again, I was too busy working to get my own picture taken with McChrystal. Oh, well. As I said before, I’m sure there will be PLENTY of opportunities for me to meet senior officers in Afghanistan again.