Before dawn, Friday, July 8
The U.S. military is headquartered in Washington, but it is not of Washington. Its heart lies a thousand miles away, or more-in the Army, at Fort Leavenworth; in the Air Force, along a dozen different runways in the South and Southwest; in the Navy, in Norfolk, San Diego and Pearl Harbor. For most in Washington, Congress is the engine that drives daily life. When Congress is in session, there is an extra energy in Washington's downtown. When Congress is "in," people work later hours, and spouses are often missing at dinner parties. But even so, the pace is generally the pace of Congress-rising late and not engaging the world until about ten in the morning. The military sticks by its own timetable in Washington, one that pre-dates democracy. It is a schedule set on thousands of battlefields, where the most dangerous time of day is just before sunrise, when it is light enough to attack but still dark enough to conceal many movements. Even in Washington, the military rises in the darkness most of the year and is at work by dawn. The effect of this is that the military has the city largely to itself at that time of day.
Excerpted from A Soldier's Duty by Thomas E. Ricks. Copyright © 2001 by Thomas E. Ricks. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.