Eleven years ago today, I was in the middle of my very first deployment for Congressional Affairs to a place called Rochester, Minnesota for some flooding that had occurred. It was a short deployment, only 17 days, but it exposed me to some good people and good initial field training.
My supervisor for that assignment was a real pro. She has since moved on to another department in the agency, but I still see her occasionally on various deployments and I’m always happy to do so. She took the time to show me the right way to do things. There were two other employees in our department and one day after my supervisor had laid out what I needed to do and how I needed to do it and then left the office, they both said to me that most of the time I would not have to do things that precise way; that our supervisor was just a real stickler for things being done fully and correctly. I didn’t know either of them too well so I just nodded and smiled. But later, after getting to know each of them I shared with them that I really did not mind having the detailed direction – in fact that I would prefer to know how to do everything in exactly the right way and then, after I had gained some experience, I felt like I could make informed decisions about how to proceed. They understood. And I left there with an excellent performance appraisal under my belt.
I had an embarrassing experience when I first arrived. I pulled into the hotel driveway in my rental car and was astonished to see all these people in wheelchairs, or using walkers, or pulling an intravenous drip bag on a pole with them to the front entrance. My first thought was, “What kind of hotel is this?” and then, “Is there some kind of convention for ill folks going on here?”
When I stepped inside to the front desk to check in, I quietly asked the clerk about it, because the lobby itself was full of folks in similar situations. She, in an equally quiet voice, replied, “Oh, we’re the closest hotel to the Mayo Clinic, just down the road, and these folks are from out of town going to the Clinic for treatment.”
I felt very small for not realizing the proximity of the world-famous Mayo Clinic, and for not being as kind-hearted as I should have been, I went out of my way after that to help folks staying at the hotel in whatever way I could.
On the “fun” side of the deployment, I got to spend one Sunday morning walking around downtown Rochester taking photos (including the Mayo Clinic AND the coolest Barnes & Noble Bookstore I had ever seen). I posted them to my old Flickr account and almost 2 years later Architecture Minnesota magazine asked for my permission to use one of my downtown shots in their magazine and sent me a couple of copies of their magazine when the issue was published in 2010.
In the past 11 years I’ve been on 29 deployments around the country; one as short as 2 days and several the maximum of 50 weeks that we’re permitted, with all kinds of lengths in between.
Thank goodness I love my job!