I'm sorry to hear of your CF card mis-adventure, Jim. I hope NPS can quickly get you back up and working.
I was lucky in that I read the manual over a few times before my D4 arrived. (Could there be anything more frustrating that watching the track of my D4 as it S L O W L Y motored across the US from California to Virginia?)
The CF card orientation is exactly opposite how it is in my D2X's. (Label toward me v away from me.) So I put flags of bright 1/16" caution tape in all three cameras.
I was fortunate that I oriented the cards correctly. Even with the tape, I still take my time EVERY card change, and don't go right from changing a card in a D2X to a D4 .
I agree it's a bad design to reverse the CF card orientation from what we've gotten used to.