Sunday, October 11, 2009

Oct 11, 2009

Been extremely busy the last couple days and didn't have time to blog.

We have been getting up even earlier than normal and shooting our weapons a lot to pre-qualify and finally qualify. We also got outfitted for our MOPP gear, or CNRB (Chemical, Nuclear, Radiological and Biological) gear. Friday we started convoy, IED and land navigation training and continued yesterday with a practical land navigation exercise (our squad was the first one back!) and more convoy/IED training.

A shipmate fires the Big Dog: the 50 caliber.

We learned IEDs, specifically victim-activated IEDs (where the victim triggers the bomb by picking up, disturbing or touching it) kill more U.S. servicemen than all other combat- AND non-combat-related sources, including being shot.

The bottom line is don't touch or pick-up anything when you're in the field.

 Today's MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) includes a heater to warm up your food.

Apparently the insurgents in Afghanistan have a little more honor than those in Iraq. Iraqi insurgents would emplace their IEDs, set back and wait with video. When the bomb detonated they would not offer any other resistance or battle. In Afghanistan they use the IED to stop a convoy for subsequent attack.

Afghan insurgents are very clever: they hide or camouflage the weapons so they're almost impossible to detect. I guess this is to counter their poor shooting and inferior military capability, but it's such a cowardly way to fight because they place these bombs among civilians inside cities!

What I find very interesting is a parallelism between Hollywood movies and real life: the bad guys do wear black to faithfully (pun intended) represent evil in the battle with society.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Week 2 Begins

The day started at 4 a.m. with a scheduled exercise period and run; however, mother nature threw a curve ball in the form of rain. Surprisingly, common sense prevailed and we did our exercises indoors and the run was called off.

We went back to our barracks and waited for breakfast, then started the day proper with a weapon-cleaning session (we shot our weapons last week). I qualified Sharpshooter on the pistol. This week I will qualify on the M-16 and I look forward to shooting it.

We also did our final medical check before departing. I’m now completely cleared for deployment. My wife will mail the materials I collected before I left that I didn’t want to bring to training here. The items should be in Afghanistan before I arrive.

In addition to getting our medical items finished we also reviewed our basic first aid procedures and received a Rules of Engagement brief from an Army JAG. It definitely left me with the feeling that we aren’t playing by the same rules as the Taliban and other insurgents. In other words, we are adhering to the rule of law but the Taliban isn’t. Another dimension of good vs. evil.

Well I need to get to bed because we get up early for M-16 pre-qualification shooting tomorrow.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Welcome to the experience of Afghanistan

Obviously this blog isn't coming live, but I feel like Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam: I am a U.S. Navy public affairs officer headed to Afghanistan for a year as an Individual Augmentee. That means I'm going by myself instead of with a Navy ship or squadron.

Right now I'm in the training pipeline, which is to say I am at a training course here in the United States. Since I'm a Sailor and not a Soldier I am getting basic solder training so I can attempt to protect and defend myself if I end up in a firefight with insurgents.

It seems rather ironic to me: I am a Sailor being sent to a land-locked country in the U.S. Army's uniform! If I go to the command I was originally ordered to I shouldn't see any action, or fighting. If I do things would be going very badly!

This is my first deployment in a while and so far it's much easier because of the new technological tools available. Specifically, Skype, e-mail and cell phones. Both my wife and I have laptops with video cameras. In addition, I am on land, not a ship, so I have access to the Internet daily. I can see and talk to my wife every night. Of course it's not like being there, but it's a lot better than not talking or e-mailing for weeks on end.

Enough diverging.

My intent is to describe my experience of going to war. I will also express my personal opinions based on my observations. Sorry Taliban, but I won't be providing any intelligence or classified information.

So far the Army training is about what you'd expect for someone who has only been a Sailor! You wear a bunch of heavy equipment and gear; hurry-up-and-wait constantly; and get hot, sweaty and dirty.
The Army's solution to additional daily taskings is to get up that much earlier instead of staying later. For example, we're getting up at 4 a.m. tomorrow to exercise and run.

I don't care much for Army chow, either their dining facilities or MREs (Meals Ready to Eat: what they serve soldiers when they're in the field). But, I do have to give them credit for their latrines: I have never been in a port-o-poddy that actually smelled clean! They also use normal toilet paper instead of the thin, rough paper required for ship's septic systems.

Fortunately we don't have too much time left here and then we'll fly to the Middle East and finally Afghanistan. I will spend a year in Afghanistan and I will probably be working 18-hour days 7 days per week. I'm told we get 2 weeks off after being there 6 months, but we'll see.

Until next time ...