How to find a special connection with the Pentagon while staying in the friendship zone
To cover the Pentagon, one must make it the center of one's universe.
Somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pentagon – probably near the Fighter Pilot Bar – there is likely a black-and-white picture of the building being dedicated in January 1943 that includes your friend and humble narrator in the background being scowled at by Army Col. Leslie Groves.
Even though your spry correspondent was technically born decades later, if you work at the Pentagon long enough, you develop a special relationship with the building, much like Jack Nicholson's character in “The Shining.”
Thus, yours truly has always been here. In the 23rd Century – about the time that most of the problems on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald Ford are slated to be fixed – this reporter will still be at the Pentagon, asking some future defense official why the U.S. military has spent $100 trillion on a project to warp time and space into the shape of an intergalactic penis. (Because of China and Russia, of course.)
To cover the Pentagon, one must make it the center of one's universe. The building must become your wife, your mother, your lover, and your child. Because if you do not come to the Pentagon every single day, you don't exist in the eyes of those who work here.
The only way to know what is actually happening in the Pentagon on any given day is to come here and talk to people in person. Information is a precious commodity, and it is doled out sparingly. Most of your friendly correspondent's days are filled with conversations that go along the lines of: Did you hear about this? No, but did you hear about this?
You've read about some of the folks whom this reporter consults on a daily basis to avoid missing news: One-Eyed Jack, Hawk, Nancy Drew, and Sharp Dressed Man. (On a side note: Your humble narrator asked his first editor in D.C. if he could follow in the Washington Post's tradition and use porn names like “Johnny Wadd” as pseudonyms for sources. Miraculously, I was not fired on the spot.)
Your friendly correspondent may not be the best reporter covering the Pentagon, or the smartest, or the best looking, or even decent looking, or the best groomed, or the best smelling – the list goes on – but I certainly come to the building a lot. On days when the government is closed, this reporter still works out of the nearly vacant Pentagon just in case there is an unscheduled briefing. (It hasn't happened yet, but who knows. Also, unicorns could be real.)
When this reporter spent a day-and-half away from the Pentagon recently, returning to the building felt like trying to pass a land navigation test without a compass. During those 36 hours, your friendly correspondent was cut off from the Pentagon information mill – which operates much like the Lance Corporal Network.
One option your humble narrator considered to avoid being out of the loop again was moving into the Pentagon itself. The building has a CVS pharmacy for cholesterol and blood pressure medications and a Subway that is open 24 hours a day, so what else does a middle-aged reporter really need in life?
But a Pentagon insider convinced this reporter not to do so. To protect this person's identify, we shall refer to him as “Hulk Hogan” hereafter.
“While it seems like folks at the Pentagon spend their entire lives here, I do not recommend actually spending your life here,” Hulk Hogan told your intrepid correspondent. “The Pentagon is an office building and is not meant for residential living. If you are interested in sleeping in a DOD-run facility, I can put you in touch with a military recruiter who can set you up very nicely.”
“Typically, people are fighting to leave the Pentagon. I can't see why anyone would want to actually live here,” the Hulkster added.
So for the foreseeable future, yours truly and the Pentagon will enjoy a special bond – but we're just friends.
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Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 13 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at email@example.com or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.