Life after humanitarian logistics

Where do all the logistics officers go after they have run around in the field for years, contracting a variety of tropical diseases and stewing behind a desk for a while?  Well, I am finding out.  The reality is that the world we come from is so highly specialized that the conversion takes a little while.  Most of us will end up in for-profit supply chain if we stay true to our calling, or we’ll stay the course and consult for our former employers and associates if the opportunity presents itself, but for those of us with a family that no longer dream of 20hr airplane rides and bucket showers for months on end the options are limited.

The reality is that when you have a wife and kid one month feels like a long time and you do actually miss your kids growing up if you are always running off to the next emergency.  This used to be not a problem, in fact I loved it, when my life was the size of a suitcase and the only thing I spent money on was a new cell phone.  I still miss the field and the next big adventure but priorities shift and living hard becomes less attractive than the opportunity to wrestle with your kid and crawl into a warm bed.  The closest suitable gig seems to be something along the lines of supply chain consultant where the field is a little more comfortable and there’s no hazard pay.  Or so I think.

There are a hell of a lot of new acronyms but after coming from the land of acronyms I am not too concerned with learning them.  Between the US government and the UN I think I have seen just about every letter combination possible.  After a bit of investigating you realize that the slick little letter jumbles seem to be code for just about everything we have already done with the only caveat being we didn’t sell stuff.  The utterly bizarre part is that it doesn’t seem like there will be the kind of instability that we were all so used to.  No more attempted hijackings, guns, bugs, snakes, guerrillas, exasperating meetings, etc.  Gone are the days of arriving in Chad at 3am alone with nothing more than a backpack and a hotel reservation.  My assignment?  Set-up refugee camps along the unstable eastern frontier, establish offices in three cities, hire staff, cars, establish bank accounts and an accounting system, clear sat comms through customs, etc and all in a couple of weeks.  That is pretty much the daily routine for many of us and now my main concern is figuring out how to tie a tie that I never had to wear.  Well, I guess it could be worse.

At least 70% of what I did behind a desk I think I could have done from home so my guess is that is how we end up as consultants, plus the company doesn’t have to foot the medical bills.  With so much of what we do becoming virtual you really begin to wonder how much office space we all need to occupy in DC, NY, LA, etc.  It seems that rather than loosing mobility I am gaining it and hope and pray that I find some savvy individuals that understand that I really don’t need to drink all of their office coffee in order for me to get done the job they hired me to do.  There are some fascinating opportunities out there but now the trick is turning the tables and getting them to understand that what we did actually has some basis in reality.  It has been great fun deciphering their lingo and I think I get it.  The problem I have found is getting this world to understand the world we are all emerging from.

Let’s face it, we can’t stay in orbit forever.  The excitement wears thin and I am OK with the karma that I hope I’ve aggregated.  I’ll never stop loving what I did and I’ll never stop helping people.  That is why I blog here and why I went out and founded a non-profit.  There is always more to do and I don’t want to lose touch with what I think I am good at – being an aid worker.  But there are bills to pay and new loves and there will never be a shortage of eager young folks willing to run out and throw themselves in harms way for the betterment of mankind.  I just have to realize now that I just have to get out of the way and let ’em have at it.

p.s. – The photo up top is from and excellent Flickr stream which can be found here.


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