The line of hundreds of troops and civilians to have Robert Gates sign a copy of his new book, Duty, snaked through stanchions at the Pentagon and wound itself outside on to the sun-soaked courtyard on Thursday.
Being a (mostly) beloved former Defense secretary helped boost attendance. Writing a book that blasts Congress, the vice president and bloated bureaucracies didn't hurt, either. And authoring a 600-page memoir that praises the service and sacrifices of privates and four-stars and their families is guaranteed to be a hit in these halls.
Yet not everybody who waited and waited and waited was entirely satisfied. A military veteran and current Pentagon official reported that he had hoped for a more personalized inscription than the scrawled signature that he received.
Gates' book blitz has been sneakily effective. Just like him. Last week, early reviews popped up in advance of its release, ginning up interest. This week, he's popped up everywhere from USA TODAY to the Daily Show. Look up today and there he is in the Situation Room. The one on CNN with Wolf Blitzer.
The book has Gates' voice: plain-spoken, clear, tart on occasion. And it has a sprinkling of anecdotes sure to be a hit with the Pentagon crowd. Such as: the time he and Leon Panetta as part of the Iraq Study Group and well before either one was SecDef, raced through the terminal at Shannon airport in Ireland on a refueling stop en route to Baghdad.
Their mission: hit the duty-free shop to score some hooch before heading into the poop in Iraq.
Drinks mission, Gates writes, was accomplished.
"These two future secretaries of defense didn't realize that we would be in violation of the military's General Order No. 1 forbidding the consumption of alcohol in Iraq."
Follow @tvandenbrook on Twitter.