The flight from Chicago landed at about 7:45 pm. In contrast to the rocky liftoff we had back home in which our plane (buffeted by polar vortex winds) rocked alarmingly, in San Diego both the final approach and the landing gear’s touchdown onto the runway were as smooth as silk, probably because the weather outside was so perfect. When the cabin door opened, the coastal air felt positively balmy and my first thought was that the crazy-high property values down here are obviously worth it. I collected my “trash” (= bags in Navy speak) from the baggage claim area and lugged them to the USO where there was a shuttle bus to the Navy base. I got a room, crashed in bed, and whispered “goodnight” to Megan and the girls although it was unlikely any of them could hear it.
On the following morning, the men and women of the company began to introduce themselves to one another in fragmentary “hello’s” and short conversations, as circumstances would allow; the individuals originate from places ranging from Florida to Alaska. Corpsmen, Nurses, and Doctors, all of us were complete strangers to one another but united by a common uniform, a common cause, and a common mission. Over the next several days we processed through the various “evolutions” (Intake, Travel, Credentials, Medical, Dental, Gear Issue…) and now here we are at the end of the first week, assembled, credentialed, equipped, and ready to head out for a number of days of field exercises.
The workdays didn’t allow all that much get-to-know-you time or opportunity, but our various sub-groups had the evenings for that. The medical officers found occasion to go out to dinner twice. Each event was a fairly spontaneous foray into the Gas Lamp District via the gleaming red trolley that stops right here at base. The first dinner was at a gorgeous sushi restaurant called “Nobu” where the chef’s special was about a seven-course meal, each one more delectable than the previous. The second night’s dinner was at rough-hewn and energetically decorated Mexican restaurant, about one-tenth as expensive as the first (no joke), but still delicious, followed by an ultimately raucous evening at an Irish bar down the block from it –even though we’re “only medical,” we are still Naval officers and as such have a duty and an obligation to tear it up when out on the town on “liberty.”
Although I was reluctant and a bit nervous to head out, both social excursions turned out to be fantastic: Orthopedic, Neurosurg, ER, ICU/Pulmonology, Anesthesia, General/Trauma surgery, and a Psychiatrist attended. I imagine everyone of us to be in the same boat, still licking our wounds from saying “goodbye” to families and homes, and everyone a bit anxious about meeting the new people in their lives. Like some kind of polygamous arranged marriage we’re all sort of stuck with one another, you know, for better or for worse, and our first tentative steps upon meeting one-another were nerve-racking and exciting all at once: “Who did Uncle Sam pick for us?” we wanted to know.
Happily, I think we all found at first blush that we’re a great fit. Relieved and encouraged, it’s off to the bush for field exercises.