The New Assignment
On the 22nd of July in the year 2010, First Lieutenant Ryan Kawecki, of the United States Air Force, was an eager and happy person. His eagerness was due to his new job in the Investigative Analysis Unit of the United States Air Force’s Defense Intelligence Agency. He had spent the whole of his seven years as an Officer in the Air Force being bounced from one staff position to the next, five counting this new one. All of them were, by his estimation, a waste of his intellect. This was not vanity. Lieutenant Kawecki was, by nature, a humble and considerate person. However, in his thoughts, he believed himself to be far above the average within the Air Force’s pool of Lieutenants. He knew himself to have a genius level IQ and this knowledge was continually being reinforced by the level of his work by comparison to that of his co-workers.
Ryan had hopes that this new job would put him in the company of minds equivalent to his own. After all, he would be working in Washington DC. He expected nothing less than the best that the United States military had to offer to be working here. He felt it was only right that he should be among them. After all, he did graduate from the Air Force Academy seventh in his class. After submitting nine transfer requests for this posting, his request was granted. In his mind, Ryan entertained thoughts that the powers that be had finally come to recognize his true value. He suspected this was nothing more than wishful thinking; nonetheless he was pleased with the fantasy. Being someone picked to work in the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center in Washington DC made him feel like a member of an elite community of people. A secondary reason for his good humor was the fact that he was finally able to house himself and his family in a dwelling that was not built, owned and maintained by the military.
Rugged living was something that Ryan had no predilection for, which was why he applied to the Air Force Academy. He saw the military as a means of elevating himself and, for him; the Air Force was the least disagreeable of the five branches of same. His circumstance, as the only child of an unwed mother who died when he was twelve years of age, did not afford him many options for attending college. He spent the remainder of his adolescence in foster care. He had a grandmother who had neither the means nor the inclination to take him in. His father and grandfather were in the wind and were never an option for consideration. His passage through three foster homes and three separate schools hindered him scholastically, but only enough to drop him from an A to a B+ GPA. Academically bright and studious by nature, Ryan entered the Air Force right out of high school. His plan was to never look back on his childhood. Building his future held all of his focus.
The twenty-nine year old First Lieutenant Ryan Kawecki was not a striking figure of a man. He was not unattractive. He maintained a full head of hair and only sported sunglasses when there was need for them. Standing five-feet ten-inches tall, he recently began to struggle with his weight. He was forever worried that others would notice his slightly rounding contour. This they did with far less regard than he. But it was his discipline and powers of concentration that others noticed far more. It was this aspect of his character that most attracted Julie Maddux to him. His determination to excel and his soft spoken manner endeared him to her right away. She immediately set off on a campaign to marry him, a fact he is unaware of to this day. They produced a son a year into their marriage and then a daughter, a year and half later. The Kaweckis were happy and Mr. and Mrs. Kawecki felt to be comfortably situated for the first time in their marriage.
Ryan had no trouble negotiating his way to his new office. The floor plans of the Defense Intelligence Analysis Center and the setup of its surrounding infrastructure was well fixed in his mind. He had his designs on this posting since before he joined the Air Force. He deftly navigated his way through the parking structure, into the building and past the security with the ease of a seasoned employee. In just under fifteen minutes he traversed from his car to the front of his new commanding officer’s desk, two steps back.
“First Lieutenant Ryan Kawecki reporting for duty, Sir...”
Major Joshua Berg was a forty-seven year old, tall, six-foot-one, thin, man with an erect bearing. Despite his height, there was no look of athleticism in his appearance. His physique leaned towards the gaunt. His hair had a salt and pepper graying appearance and his hairline was receding in the front. He maintained a stern expression behind black, plastic rimmed, narrow glasses. Glancing up from the paper he was reading, he gave Ryan a quick look and a nonchalant salute before returning his attention to the paper.
“Yes, you were expected,” Major Berg replied without looking up. “Find an empty desk out there and someone will get to you shortly with something for you to do.”
This was a less than impressive beginning by Ryan’s expectations. This was Defense Intelligence Analysis. He expected an orientation and a security briefing. He was not expecting a casual glance and a prompt dismissal from a middle-aged librarian. Confused by this casual meeting, he hesitated for a couple of seconds to sort through his disbelief. He then turned about and left the office, seemingly without the notice of Major Joshua Berg.
Ryan wandered out of the partially glass encased office cubicle and into the large office space outside of it. More than thirty desks filled the interior of this large office area. A less than impressive computer was situated atop each of them. The room was continuously filling up with Air Force personnel. One by one they quietly entered the work area and navigated to their desks with unenthusiastic and methodic movements. Rarely was a word said between them beyond hello. Ryan made his way to a desk near the center of the room that looked to be devoid of occupancy. He quickly examined the contents of the drawers and found nothing in them other than the key to lock them. Convinced that he had found his new work desk, he began depositing the meager contents of his satchel in and on the desk.
“Hi, you must be new,” First Lieutenant Robert Wade pleasantly spoke. “My name is Robert Wade. Rob will do.”
Ryan took note of his moderately handsome neighbor to his right and stepped towards his extended hand with a smile.
“Ryan Kawecki…Ryan will do just fine.”
Both men shook hands congenially. After their two second handshake, Ryan turned his attention back to his desk.
“So, are you unimpressed yet?” Rob questioned with a grin.
“Unimpressed?” Ryan questioned with a confused expression. “What do you mean?”
“Most newcomers come here with grand visions of analyzing top secret data, situation rooms and real time satellite hook ups with operatives in the field.”
Ryan knew that he had fallen into this category, but not to the extent that Rob was suggesting. He gave him a smile that bordered on a laugh before confessing his gullibility.
“Well, I admit I was expecting more than a fifty year old metal desk and a computer nearly as old on top of it.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Rob retorted with a grin. “You’re going through everybody’s first day.”
Ryan’s enthusiasm rose a bit with this remark. He read into Rob’s remark that there was something interesting to come in the future. “So, it does get better?”
“No,” Rob quickly countered with a drab inflection. “But this is everybody’s first day.”
Ryan’s hope for something challenging to fill his time here was suddenly dashed with this response. His curiosity about the work that they did here had suddenly piqued beyond his patience to wait on. “What do we do here?”
“We research, investigate and then write reports,” Rob explained as he situated himself in his chair.
Ryan found this answer totally insufficient and quickly challenged him for a better one. “Reports about what…?”
“That my friend is a question you never want to ask,” Rob softly explained. “And more importantly, it’s one that you never want to answer.”
Ryan took from this that there was some secrecy to this work. And he was happy to hear it. This take was made true when an Airman came along with his first assignment. Before releasing the packet to him, he was required to acknowledge with his signature that he received it and that he understood that he was never to divulge its contents to anyone without the direction of his immediate superior. This, he was later told, was his orientation.
“Joshua doesn’t believe in formalities when it comes to this job. And in his defense, it is a very simple job.”
Second Lieutenant Sara Forester gave this explanation on their lunch break.
“Does the content of these packets ever get interesting?” Ryan questioned with some hesitation.
Sara and Rob looked at one-another with a shrug before the later gave this response. “Not that I’ve seen.”
Sara reinforced this answer with an affirmative nod of her head. “Hey, if you wanted excitement, then you should have stayed on an air base. At least then you would get to see something going on every now and then. Here all you’re going to get is an endless supply of boring subjects that need to be condensed down into legible reports.”
“And don’t even think about advancement,” Rob tossed in. “If you wait it out, you can get Joshua’s job. But that’s about it.”
“Don’t get us wrong,” Sara quickly added on. “It’s a good place to work if you have family like I do. It’s a comfortable job, all things considered. But if you have any Air Force ambitions, this is not the place to be.”
From this moment on, Ryan entertained serious thoughts about his future plans in the Air Force. He had no desire to uproot his family so soon after situating them in such a comfortable location. However, he had great reservations about giving too many years of his life to the posting he found himself in. After two weeks of working in Defense Investigative Analysis, he broached the subject of transferring out with his wife.
This was not a subject that Julie was keen on hearing. Her new home was comfortable and her children were happily situated here. Just the same, she felt obliged to be sympathetic to her husband’s displeasure with his job. She listened to his concerns and his rational for submitting his first transfer request as soon as he could.
Julie understood the mechanics of transferring to a new post. After living through Ryan’s numerous attempts to get this posting, she knew that the quickest way out was by being none too particular about where he was going to. She surmised from Ryan’s thinking that this was precisely the way he felt. She, however, did not share her husband’s desperation to be rid of his job. And she quickly rationalized an argument to save her home for another year or two.
“I know you want advancement and to put in your twenty years, but don’t you think you should wait at least a year before putting in a request for transfer. I mean, who’s going to take you seriously if you start petitioning for a new post after only two weeks.”
Ryan did not care how it looked. But he did care about his wife and family. He read out of this response a desire to stay where they were for at least a full year. This was, after all, what he was really after, a sense of how she felt on the subject. Convinced that his wife desperately wanted to stay, Ryan resigned himself to stick it out for a minimum of two years.
“Okay, let’s give it two years and see what happens.”
On his next return to work, Ryan was given his fifth packet to be assimilated, researched and explained. He promptly opened it and began examining the contents. Within a minute of reading what was there, he became infuriated with himself for promising to stick it out for two years. Inside he found a collection of records, applications, appraisals and a collection of incidental documents on one Lieutenant Jill Hytner. The fact that he was given a person to write a report on was of no surprise to him. He had done this twice before. What made this packet so unusual was the lowly status of the individual. He could not fathom why the Air Force wanted a report on a former Air Force Lieutenant.
After scanning through the whole of the packet, Ryan could see nothing in this person’s life that was worthy of the attention of the Defense Intelligence Agency of the United States Air Force. What made this exercise the most ludicrous to him, was the fact that Lieutenant Hytner had passed away of old age in the year 2007. He saw nothing in her Air Force record that suggested that she performed any special duties while in the service. In fact, from what he could see from her records, she was never anything more than a nurse. Given the DIA’s interest in her life, Ryan quickly became skeptical that this was the whole extent of her duties while she was in the military. He decided to research her history in the Air Force starting with her last posting first, the Roswell Army Airfield in 1947.