Yesterday JR and I were getting ready to join Lt. Col. Payne for a shura in Panjawa’i District. In Afghanistan, a shura is a gathering/meeting and they can stretch for hours. Our meet time was 0800.

As I left my CHU, a soldier with Lt. Col. Payne’s TAC team was walking ahead of one of the detail’s Stykers, which meant they were getting ready to leave.

“Are you tracking we’re leaving at 0800, ma’am?” he asked as he passed.

“No, we had meet at 0800, leaving at 0830.”

Leaving at 0800, ma’am.

It was 0730. JR and I rushed to the DFAC to grab a quick breakfast. JR chose to sit and eat his meal. I grabbed my cardboard plate and rushed back to the CHU to eat and prepare my gear.

Between spoonfuls of oatmeal and bites of biscuit, I doublechecked my gear and organized.

JR arrived and we decided to confirm the day’s schedule with Lt. Col. Payne. We learned the shura in Panjawa’i was cancelled and the Lt. Col. and Command Sgt.Maj. Bowen were rolling to Kandahar instead…at 0800 

JR and I quickly discussed our options and decided to stay in Shoja and finish the Christmas story we were filing for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

This was not the first time we’d raced to hit a moving/changing deadline, nor the first shura that had been cancelled.

When we first arrived in Shoja a week ago, we spent an hour discussing the schedule to they worked out for us. It was packed and we’d be  on the move often. We were concerned we’d be reporting and on the move so much that we wouldn’t have time to prepare and file our stories and photographs. JR and I were exhausted but we discussed the shedule, adapted and packed to leave the next day.

No even an hour later, Lt. Tony Formica, the public affairs officer assisting us in Shoja, returned and said: “I’ve got good news and bad news.” He’d showed the schedule to Lt. Col. Payne and he wanted us to attend three shuras to understand the counterinsurgency and diplomacy efforts. A local shura in Nakhonay on Dec. 22, a district shura in Panjawa’i on Dec. 26 and a district shura in Dand on Dec. 27.

JR and I winced. That’s a lot of meetings. However, we were told Lt. Col. Payne thought it was important to observe this part of the local governance and we accepted his assessment. We reworked the schedule. It was 2330 before we got to bed that first night.

Since then, we’ve had the four days of “air red,” when we were grounded, unable to leave the base because the air was thick with dust and fog and there’d be no medivac support in the event of an “event.” That gave us plenty of time to file our first story on Zeke, the therapy dog. (The News-Miner hasn’t published it yet.)

The first two of the three shuras we planned to attend have been cancelled. And JR and I will be up packing and preparing to attend a shura in Dand today.

We have to pack and prepare as if the schedule will unfold planned. We also have to be willing to unpack and make a new plan. It’s essential to keep our eyes on our objectives and the stories we want to cover…and to adapt to this slippery thing called a “schedule” and keep our eyes and ears open for new ideas and stories as plans change.

Today we’re scheduled to leave for the shura in Dand district. I’ve got to go pack now.

All the while remembering that the Army truly does specialize in hurry up and wait.

And there’s nothing sure about a shura.

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