Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recap

So. The last what...twenty days? A whole lotta nothing, really. Let me bring you up to speed.

My totally amazing and super cool girlfriend, Connie, bought and sent me a Magic Jack. I just plugged it into my computer and free calls to any phone, land line or cell. Pretty cool. So in addition to email, now I have Yahoo IM, which it's been so long since I logged into Yahoo chat I don't remember, Google IM, Skype, and now Magic Jack. Pretty sweet, especially when I consider that when I was in Saudi for Desert Shield, a call home cost something like $50.00 for fifteen minutes. I think I called home maybe three times in nine months, if that. Skype is good, and I like the video feature, but it is computer to computer. Magic Jack is computer to phone, and it works great. Unless it's after dark here, in which case the server gets busy and connectivity is spotty. Still, it's a world away from 1991.

We had our combat patch ceremony. We all stood in a formation and the Battalion Commander made a little speech and then the company commander, CPT Z, went around slapping T Patches on everybody. Some of my boys said they didn't feel right, wearing a combat patch without having, you know, seen any combat, and I said they didn't have to wear it. Then I pointed out that it was for serving in a combat zone, not necessarily for actually being in combat. They are here, I said, and I know that if they were called upon to go suit up and kick in doors, they would do it without hesitation, and the fact that the war has progressed to a point where they don't have to do that is a good thing, and not a refection on them. If it means you never have to get shot at, that's great, and you can go home and wear your combat patch and never have to duck your head to any man, because you were ready to do your part, I said. Still, they are warriors, combat soldiers, infantrymen, and on some level, they all want to go out there and shoot something.

My PSD section has been gutted. Since we do not have a full time PSD mission, we have been tasked out to some of the sections. We will run PSD missions as the need arises, which is maybe once or twice a week or so. A couple of guys went to Badging, making access badges for our little camp. Three more went to Engineering, which is basically a cooler name for maintenance. One is loaned out doing some admin stuff for a few weeks. Another is doing PAO stuff, working on the newsletter and such. The rest are here and there, doing grunt work. I now belong to Force Protection, meaning I do stuff relating to counter terrorism and base security. It's not as cool as that might sound. For example, I spent the day stringing concertina wire. It sucks. Not fun.

Last week we had a battalion weapons competition. I was the NCOIC of the event. In a nutshell, we had teams from every company in the battalion come here and compete against each other in clearing, disassembling, reassembling, and conducting a function check of five weapons systems: The M9 pistol, M4 carbine, M249 machine gun, M240 machine gun, and the big dog, the timeless M2 .50 caliber BMG, also affectionately known as the Ma Deuce. The event went well. Of course, it was a total canine and equine extravaganza, but that's too be expected. My company did not win. To be expected, as we only had a few infantrymen competing, all of them from my PSD. The rest were clerks and jerks, desk jockies and assorted support pukes. I say that with affection and respect, of course. I expected one the three line companies to win, but no, the winning company was Echo company. The transportation company. They kicked everyone's ass, and I don't think they put up anyone other than truck drivers and mechanics. A bunch of hardcore infantry types got served by some wrench spinners.

Hmm, what else? Oh, the day they finally hanged Chemical Ali, and good riddance to that piece of shit, I saw three huge plumes of smoke rising over the Baghdad skyline off in the distance. I later learned they were three major car bombings out across the river from the Green Zone.

The day before the weapons competition, me and Stroud and the S3 Sergeant Major were driving over near Liberty and we saw a procession of many, many very new, very shiny black Suburbans rolling by in the opposite direction, escorted by a plethora of MP's in assorted tactical and non-tactical vehicles. We are used to seeing the odd two or three Suburban motorcade, but this was ten, twelve, fifteen. I was struck not just by who many vehicles there were, but by how clean they were. You don't see many clean vehicles around here. I read later that VP Biden was here, so there you go.

Some of my boys grilled hamburgers and hot dogs tonight, so that was good. I had a fake pineapple flavored beer, which just tasted like a pineapple flavored soft drink. Disappointing.

So that's about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Ugandans

Last week, my PSD was tasked with training up some of the Ugandan security guards that work on a couple of the local FOBs. They work in the towers and entry control points (ECPs), as well as guard the entrances to places like the chow halls and PX's. The idea is to free up U.S. forces to do warfighting stuff, so we employ what we call TCNs, or third country nationals to do those things.

I don't know the details, but the security company that was here when we arrived were replaced a couple of weeks later by the company we trained, which is called SOC. Somebody thought the SOC guys could use a little extra training, which is where me and my boys came in.



The SOC guys are mostly former Ugandan military. Most of them speak very proper English. Many are very well spoken and speak with a slight British accent. As a whole, they were very eager and motivated, and seemed thrilled to be taught by American soldiers. Most called me "Mistah Jack," with a crisp English "Sah!" thrown in for good measure.

The SOC guards make about $500 a month, which is typical for TCN security guards these days. They work 12 hour shifts, which average out to about 14-15 hours between weapon and equipment draw, guard mount, and transport to and from their posts. They work seven days a week, no days off.

They were very well disciplined and from what I saw, your average U.S. infantry company could take a lesson from them in Drill & Ceremony...although they do that funny little British kick-hop when they do facing movements.

They were very friendly and outgoing almost without exception. Most of them had Western first names. Many had a Biblical ring: James, Peter, Israel, Moses were pretty popular. I met two guys named Edison, although they both insisted it was pronounced "Edson."

The Ugandans aren't used to the cool Iraqi winter weather. They wore jackets, sweaters, and knit caps even in the daytime, and insisted it was "too cold" even when it hit the 60's. They are gonna love it here come July.

When being addressed by a superior, the Ugandan military teaches their soldiers to come to strict attention, and to raise up on their toes if speaking with someone of very high rank or position. The SOC guards were very polite and respectful to all of my guys.



The classes were pretty basic. Some of the stuff we covered was radio procedures and spot reports;



care and feeding of the PKM machine gun;



likewise the venerable AK47;



as well as use of force and rules of engagement. One thing we quickly noticed was that most of the Ugandans don't really shoulder a weapon. They tend to sort of chicken wing it, tucking it under their arm and pointing it in the general direction of their target, like this fellow.



With a little work, we were able to get most of them to shoulder and aim properly. I wonder if we have upset the balance of power in eastern Africa by teaching these guys how to use sights?



After a few days, we finished up, and had a little ceremony to award them their training certificates.



Here we are doing the grip-and-grin. The Ugandans do a funky little handshake. It goes from regular handshake to cool brother-man handshake straight out of 1979, and back to the regular. As as sign of respect, they generally will grasp their right elbow with their left hand as they shake, although none of the disrespectful bastards you see here are doing it.



And here is a highly trained, justifiably proud young man with his high speed training certificate. Now all he has to do is write his name in and frame it up on his I-love-me wall.

U Gan Do It!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Knowing



It's half the battle. Now you know.

Echo

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