Monday, January 14, 2008

one year

Alot can happen in a year. Your life as it is now can be completely different, unrecognizable to you, a year from now. A year ago today I got on a plane headed for Fort Jackson in South Carolina. I was leaving everything I had up to that point - my job, my house, my beautiful wife - and getting on a plane to somewhere I didn't want to go, to start on a series of adventures I didn't want to experience. I had no idea what lay ahead of me, and I was just praying to get through the next week, let alone the next year. Yet, here I am today, a year later, thinking on all that has happened since that day, and hopefully no worse for the wear because of it.

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One of the challenges I consistently face here is cultural pressure. As the person in charge of construction projects, many of the Iraqi's have taken a special interest in me. It seems that at least 75% of them have a brother/uncle/cousin in the construction business, and who better to get their relative a job then the guy in charge of the construction where they work?

It's a fairly simple process. I write a scope of work to describe in detail what kind of work I want done. I then send that out to contractors asking for an estimate on how much they can get the job done for. After taking all estimates, I forward that to our contracting center, and they write the legal language and officially award the work to the lowest bidder. The problem with having so many of Iraqi's interested in getting their relatives work is that, should their cousin get the work, the people who didn't get the work get pissed off. Then I am open to be questioned about playing favorites, taking gifts, etc. It's not like the oppurtunity isn't there, either. I have had my fair share of "gift" offerings, but I knew what they really were, and I usually spend about 15 minutes refusing them. It's hard turning down some of these "gifts"! In their culture though, they don't see the problem. If it were up to them, their brother's cousin's uncle would be getting the first shot at all the projects. Why? Because he's family. Makes sense, when you think about it. It's just not ethical.

So I have to look like the bad guy. I've never even sent a request for a bid to someone's relative that I work with, and it hasn't made me a popular guy. Here's the thing though -I don't care. Well, its not that I don't care but . . . yea I don't care. I didn't ask for this. All I want is to get back to my normal life - my house, my job, my beautiful wife. The last thing I need is to have someone question my ethics and have this nightmare extended because I am part of some investigation. So I don't even chance it. Your brother owns a construction business? Awesome! I wont give him any work, but I'll be sure to let the other project officers know that your he's an option.

I was never good at popularity contests anyway.

9 comments:

Damsel in Digress said...

great post, jason. you are one kickass individual. (do you allow swearing in your comments section?)

i hope you get to go back to your beautiful home and wife soon too. i am in awe of what you do, the struggles you probably face, and the fact that you still stay true to yourself.

let me know when you're back in the states. i'll send you a bottle of wine or a case of beer and maybe you can indulge in some hungover posting yourself =)

Joe Donato said...

It’s a tough world out there, it’s extremely hard to show others you have real integrity. Sometimes they can’t believe it’s in your heart and soul.

I feel proud to know you.

verybadcat said...

Good for you. It must be hard to turn away gifts- you're so far from home and they're probably luxuries you'd never have otherwise. The high road is a tough one, for sure.

Thank you for your service to our country. I truly appreciate your sacrifice- and your wife's.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 01/15/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Jo Castillo said...

We're proud of you. Thanks for your service and commitment. For the wife, too. :)

Jason said...

Thanks everyone! Although, I hope this post didn't come across as me trying to pat myself on the back. I was more trying to illustrate the vast cultural difference that exists; whereas something that seems completely unethical to me is perfectaly normal to them.

Damsel - cursing is fine, and thanks for the generous offer!

Steph said...

I'd take the gift and run...but that's just me. :P

Take care sweetie!

HUGGINS said...

Yeah differences in culture do abound...and yes everyone and their brother seems to have a Construction business over there. I recently read an article about the Binladen's and their fortune stemming from the Construction business...Article touched on a particular son of Osama...this son Omar is a "peacenik," trying to bring peace to Muslims and the West...of course he has a construction site in Saudi Arabia...

Jason we recognize that you are just telling us your side of things, and how you view them...no back patting noticed or picked up on...

Jason said...

Steph - it has crossed my mind!

Huggins- thanks!