Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 48-49 (Sat & Sun May 16-17, 2009)

Aaahhh, the Weekend...

Boredom had set commitments or requirements for us. I believe we passed the time on Sunday by going to the new Star Trek movie.

(Mike is trying to look smart by reading a book...clever.)

(Yup, these are me feet. Oh, I can't remember if I mentioned this, but half way through our training, Mike and I had an agreement that we would switch beds (top to bottom). So, my little Hooch was lost. However, in the spirit of the Hooch, I strung up these sheets to provide a bit of privacy and shelter from the glaring florescent bulbs above. Ingenuity at it's worst.)

Day 47 (Friday May 15, 2009)

I Got Frisked...and then Drank Beer

Today was all about tactical questioning and detaining. We began with a few classes on how to detain suspicious individuals (for example) in a village and refer back to previous training on search and seizure of worrisome items and people. At some auspicious point in the lecture, I was volun-told to be the “bad guy”, introduced to the front of the room and in an awkward haze of giggles and snickering, I got frisked.

Now I know how my dog felt after a good petting…but not in a good way. They also discussed what laws govern us during these operations. Finally, we were given a lecture on “tactical” questioning. This is not interrogation, merely information gathering of a specific nature. They stressed this point.

In usual fashion, following the lectures, we were taken out for a practical exercise to demonstrate our understanding. In one of the mock villages on base, there were paid actors who come from a nearby town (Junction City) to play the part of Afghans. Our task was to secure the village, detain the individuals suspicious of terrorist activities, gather information from them and search the premises for contraband. My job was “Tactical Questioner…Extraordinaire”. After posting security at the exits to the village, we moved into the small compound (walls surrounding a two-story building) and lined up the “Usual Suspects” about 5-10 feet apart, on the wall. I think there were eight of them. Four members of our team maintained security in the compound, keeping the suspects under control. One suspect was particularly unruly, yelling and trying to walk away at every chance. Another 3-4 team members went into the building and began the contraband search while I remained outside with HMI Gann as my recorder. We proceeded to question the most dubious individuals first. However, that little idea of mine turned out to be unsuccessful, as we didn’t even get to the informative individuals until the end. By the way, it’s much more difficult to come up with productive questions when the suspects are good at deception. I could never be an interrogator.

(This is team 2...not mine...they were next to our compound.)

(Here, HM1 Weber is securing the suspect...nice job HM1.)

In the end, we detained the correct individuals and released the rest to the Afghan National Police…I guess that’s how it normally happens. End of the workday.

Having "kicked" down doors and berated the "village people"...not the ultra-sensitive, costume-wielding, all male musical group...we prepared for Friday night. One of our Chief Petty Officers, Chief Carter, arranged for as many of our team members as were willing to attend the Tall Grass Brewery Tour. This was fantastic! Not only did we get some great beer, but they had a local establishment, Pat's Blue Ribbon BBQ, cater the soiree.

Good times...good times.

Following the "tour", the brewery arranged for an Aggieville Pub Crawl to follow. Aggieville is Manhattan's version of a college tourist attraction...or multiple bars easily accessible and arranged in close proximity to one another. Having previously and successfully tested my ability to handle small but effective doses of alcohol (on a few notable occasions in the past), I refrained from over consumption and "enjoyed" my night. One of our compadres, who will remain "nameless", did not fare so well; or maybe very well, depending on one's point of view. I think we meandered through 5-6 bars over 3 hours and for a few of us, the night ended with a ride back to Camp Funstun via a shuttle bus. Everyone made it home safe after a good night.

Of note, to facilitate my own memory many years down the road as I look back on this, one of my "nameless" team members lost something on the bus, but with the astute attention to detail of another team member, he found the lost item. The name of the individual and his item have been left out to protect the innocent...

Days 45-46 (Wed & Thurs May 13-14, 2009)

"Come in Radio...don't call me Radio, Unit 91...then don't call me Unit 91, Radio"


Already trained in the art of "deadly combat" (yeh, that's right), our sights shifted to learning the art of "calling for help" (not as "sexy" as the former, but just as necessary). In this class, we were given the basics of how to call in fire support, due to being in a compromised position (enemy attacking) or in the orchestration of a strike from a distance. Using a wall of one room as a projection screen, a large but real picture of a territory with buildings, roads and vehicles was displayed; much like a view of the countryside from a hilltop. In front of us, on the table, was a topographical map of the same territory with coordinated grids. Through our teaching, we were given a target on the wall projection and asked to find the coordinates on the map. Subsequently, we used a special set of binoculars with measurement lines in the optics and our maps to determine the distance and angle of incidence (what direction we are pointed). After determining the distance from us and the coordinates, we called in the air strike to the command center, requesting the attack. Essentially, we sat at our table and pretended to use a radio to call in the attack while two individuals sat at the computer, spoke back to us and entered the command into the computer. Then, an attack plane would sore across the projected wall image and drop bombs on the target. Very much like a video game for training.

May 14…Engaged in Leadership...and Lectures

Another day of lectures. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but here are the class names: ROE (Rules of Engagement), Law of War, Code of Conduct, Graduated Response, and Media Awareness. Enough said. As the last exercise of the day, we had one of our Leadership Engagements. Below, you can see Josh and Travis sit with an interpreter between them discussing made up issues with the village leaders…riveting.

(Check out the fascination of the audience.)