Friday, August 2, 2013

Pentagon Gouge: What's Changed?

So, as one might expect, things change when you go away from a place for any significant length of time.  I left the five-sided palace of bureaucracy we call the Pentagon back in August 2010, and now I've returned almost exactly 3 years later.

As a result, I'm going back through my old Pentagon Gouge posts and updating them where they need to be updated.

For the benefit of my readers who may have followed in my footsteps out of the Pentagon to the fleet and may someday return to the Pentagon (CW?), here's a quick snapshot of my first impressions on returning to the building:

3rd 2nd Corridor Entrance:  When I left, access from South Parking was via the 3rd Corridor entrance and the 2nd Corridor entrance was closed for renovations.  On one recent particularly hot, muggy afternoon, I walked from Crystal City to the Pentagon and made the mistake of trying to walk to the 3rd Corridor.  Doh.  Closed.  They've swapped.  Now the 3rd Corridor entrance is under renovation and all access on that side of the building is via the schnazzy new glass turnstyles at the 2nd Cooridor entrance.

PAC (Pentagon Athelic Center):  The entrance to the PAC has moved and is now part of this rat-maze of temporary walls through construction.  It took me a couple of times bumping into dead-ends by trial and error - trying to get there by a means I considered "logical" when there is no logic to it.  It's actually pretty easy once you figure it out.  On the first floor, just walk all the way to the end of Corridor 7 and you'll see a sign that says "PAC" with an arrow pointing toward the door to Stairway 74.  Take the stairs down one floor to the mezzanine, and continue following the signs to the PAC.  Coming out of the stairs on the mezzanine, it's a right, then a left, then a left, then a right, then a left, then a left, and then you'll see the glass turnstyles to the PAC.  Luckily, there are lots of signs along the way.  You have to swipe your PAC membership card to go through the turnstyles toward the PAC, and you have to swipe your Pentagon badge to come back through from the PAC into the Pentagon.

Uniform Shop:  There used to be a rat-maze to get to the uniform shop on the 5th deck above the Metro entrance, and I had advised people to just go to the Metro entrance and then take the stairs up to the 5th deck to find it rather than negotiate the rat maze.  The maze is gone.  The renovations in that section are all done, and you can approach the uniform shop from any direction and not run into dead-ends.

MTBP:  This is probably the biggest improvement since I left.  It used to take a LONG time to submit and get approved for your initial National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Benefits, then then once a quarter, you had to go stand in line at designated hallways at certain times to receive your Mass Transit Benefit Program Metro Checks.  Now it's all mostly automated on the web.  My initial sign-up and approval happened really fast - like within a day or two (it used to take WEEKS).  Now, when you sign up on the website, you tell it the serial number of your Metro SmarTrip card and how much your commuting expenses are each month, and they automatically put the money on your SmarTrip card.  I thought it was pretty sweet to see the balance on my SmarTrip card magically go up on August 1st without having to stand in line to get my Metro checks and then take them down to the Metro station to load them onto my SmarTrip card.   

Uniform Policy:  This one perplexes me.  When I left, just the USAF and USA guys were wearing their digital camouflage uniforms.  We had an all-hands call with the CNO one day.  When we got to the Q&A, the first question was some brave O-5 who stood up and asked if the CNO would reconsider the policy on allowing us to wear our working uniforms around the Pentagon or out in town.  If I were to summarize the CNO's response in two words, it would be: "Pack Sand."  What he actually said was something along the lines of "I want us to maintain a more professional appearance."  (Aside:  Doesn't that imply that the other services looked UNprofessional in their working uniforms?)  Well, there's been a change of CNO since I left.  I have heard that guys are wearing NWUs over on the Washington Navy Yard (WNY), but not in the Pentagon.  The part that perplexes me though is that the Marines are now wearing their digital camouflage uniforms around the Pentagon.  So now the Navy is the ONLY service not wearing their working uniform in the Pentagon.  Don't get me wrong - I'm not whining.  I'm not upset about it.  I'm not pounding my fist on the table and saying, "I WANT MY NWUs!"  I'm just making an observation of something that I noticed has changed since I left, and since I wasn't here when it changed, I don't know how or why it changed the way it did.

RedBox!  There's this whole new section inside the Metro entrance with a nice food-court on the first floor and shops (even a Best Buy!) on the second floor.  One of the very first things you'll see when you come in the Metro entrance at the top of the escalators is one of the "shops" is just a big empty red room with two RedBox kiosks.  It's actually pretty cool.  Last weekend, I rented a RedBox movie at the grocery store two blocks from my house.  We watched it, then I tucked it in my backpack and I dropped it off at the Pentagon on my way in through the Metro entrance the next morning.  Today (Friday), I went on the RedBox website, reserved a movie, and picked it up on the way out of the building.  I watched it with my family tonight, and I'll return it to the RedBox at the nearby grocery store tomorrow morning. It's pretty convenient and you can't beat the price ($1.50 per day).

Well, those are the first several things that have come to my attention so far.  I'm sure there will be more as time goes on.

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