A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘learning

Deeper Thoughts On Training

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First aid training is done. Well, Standard First Aid, anyhow, Combat First Aid starts tomorrow. It’s going to be a relatively relaxed course I think though, being that it’s the weekend, and the idea is to actually learn as much as possible. Some of the kit we get for our own med pouches is stuff I haven’t really used, though, so it’ll be important to pay good attention, I have a lot to learn. I’m realizing as I think about the course that while I’ve set up my SORD rig in a way that I think is mostly functional, I have my med pouch in a place that is only accessible from one side – which might actually not be the best idea from the perspective of planning for its use. I think I’m going to move it.

I feel like such a snob going to ranges and so on with non-combat arms types using the SORD. The whole reason people started using this sort of hit is that the tactical vest we normally carry has a couple of significant flaws. The main one has to do with the placement and design of the ammunition pouches. The tac vest has four single magazine pouches that carry 30 round rifle magazines. They sit high on the vest, which makes them awkward to use. Back when it was designed, the idea of carrying five magazines when going out on an operation seemed reasonable. Afghanistan showed that wasn’t enough. Most people wound up carrying at least ten. The position, in addition to being inefficient for rapid reloads, didn’t bear the weight properly.

With a chest rig, you can carry your magazines lower and more accessibly. I have them low and mainly on my left side, because I’m right handed, allowing me to grab them with my left hand, and swing them up rapidly into what we call “the workspace”. It’s ergonomically superior to the awkward motion required with the tactical vest. I have the pouch that will hold my pistol magazines mounted higher, as the workspace for it is different, and I can do everything right in front of my face that way.

I will note that the other major problem with the TV – the “one size fits all” problem that wastes lots of space for those who carry a machine gun as a personal weapon – isn’t really solved by the SORD rig we have been issued, because as yet there’s no pouches suitable for machine gun ammunition. However, other than the force protection folks, people generally aren’t carrying anything but rifles or carbines anyhow during the normal course of business.

So, why do I feel like a snob? Simple. So many of these guys I see have the mag pouches mounted high, and the problem is in fact made worse by the design of the mag pouches, which have a larger foldover flap. This is a smart compromise, because they can be closed relatively easily. I just don’t think they get why they’ve been given the kit they have, and perhaps that the fault of some people who aren’t sharing the knowledge. Normally, even “customizable” kit comes with a pretty strict set of directions about how it will be used. We’re not getting that direction, instead we’re being left to the soldier’s favourite term – “personal preference”. When that preference doesn’t have knowledge to shape it, well, people just go with what they know. I’ve shared mine with some people, but when someone who’s barely handled a rifle in their entire career blows me off, well, what I can I do? I’m not an expert by any means, nor do I have any authority to tell them what to do. Some people just don’t want friendly advice I guess.

There’s a second problem that it seems we (the combat arms types) have to try to break people of. We have had for many years something of an obsession with rifle magazines. We have created a culture so obsessed with retaining those magazines that it leads people to do things in gun fights that are dangerous. Our experts will tell you that when you need to change magazines, you just dump the empty one, get the fresh one loaded, and keep getting rounds downrange. However, we’ve all been taught to make sure that magazine doesn’t get lost, and I don’t really know why. The best explanation I’ve gotten is that they’re prohibited items – to have one other than as a military/law enforcement person at work is illegal. It seems we’re worried that one lost in a training area might wind up in the wrong hands or something. It’s certainly not a cost issue, they’re about $7 each or something like that if you lose one (which I haven’t in a long time).

There is an old, and possibly apocryphal story about a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, in the process of reloading the revolver he was carrying. Someone highlighted that the spent casings from that revolver were found in his pocket – suggesting that during his reload he had fiddled around to get the casings into the pocket because he would have been conditioned to do so on ranges, rather than simply dumping the cases to reload quickly. We’re conditioning people to do the same thing, but it’s getting weeded out I guess. It’s like our need to restructure the way we train people on their service rifles, because combat arms folks rather quickly get told “what you learned on basic is wrong”. Because it is.

What got me thinking about that was a series of events today. This morning I read about a green-on-blue incident involving French soldiers in Kapisa Province, which is near Kabul. Four were killed by an Afghan National Army soldier who was in a unit being mentored by the French Army. That as a headline was awful enough, but then I read the whole story – that 15 French soldiers were wounded in the attack. One lone ANA traitor created 19 casualties. How did that happen? One source explained it: they were unarmed. That I couldn’t believe. The idea of being unarmed at any point there is to me simply ridiculous.

The attack has prompted the French to “reconsider” their role, and suspend operations for now, mainly because of domestic political pressure I’m guessing.

The problem, the concern that I’m developing is that lots of people deploying who perhaps aren’t taking enough opportunity to train on the skills that they hopefully won’t ever need, but should have. I’m going to be surrounded by almost all combat arms types, so we’ll be out honing skills constantly, but I guess I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t do that. I guess it’s just the way that even as a Reservist to think about those skills. There is, also, the fact that I shoot recreationally, and I probably know more about firearms than at least 2/3s of my colleagues. I take the stuff seriously, because it’s my job.

I also was struck by something that happened during the trip to convoy ranges. After drawing our weapons, we were loading up into MSVS trucks to go out to the training area. SOP for us is when you’re loading a vehicle, you unload and clear your weapons. There are of course exceptions, but this wasn’t remotely close to being one. Additionally, when you’re going to a range, weapons handling is particularly important, for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain even to non-soldiers.

So, we’re on the truck. I was last in on the left, and as I tend to, I started looking around. I spotted a loaded rifle in the hands of someone sitting across from me. Incidentally, in our terminology, loaded means that a magazine is mounted on the rifle. Whether it actually contains ammunition or not is not discernable by appearance. There was almost certainly no ammunition present, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still not done. So, I said, “Hey man, what’s with the loaded rifle?” and shot him a bit of a glare.

I didn’t realize he was a Major. But hey, that should have meant he knew better.

His answer? “So, when I catch you doing it, I can use the same tone?”

What tone? I didn’t use a “tone”. I did highlight a significant safety infraction. That’s all.

And you’ll never catch me doing the same thing. Because I’m a pro. And we don’t do stupid things like that.

Or we shouldn’t. I don’t.

It’s not that I have a lack of confidence in our training or my peers. I don’t. I know that they’ll be able to do what they need to do, and that we get some of the best training around. I’ll be interested to get a lot more experience seeing how ours stacks up against our allies while I’m away, but what I’ve seen in limited experience tells me we’re well ahead of most of them.

It’s just that I sometimes wonder if people just brush it off, even when there’s lots of people who’d happily coach them.

Written by Nick

January 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Back In The Swing

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It’s been a busy week thus far – a little chaotic in some cases, because basically everyone getting ready to deploy has different stuff to do – different checks to get in their boxes. It’s been fairly well organized, actually, other than a number of last minute changes to some of the plans that were published initially.

I had a good mix of stuff booked to get done this week – convoy ranges to start off, some interesting training on TTPs for road movements that are going to be a large part of what we’re going to be doing. It wasn’t anything particularly new I learned, but it was good to review and get the latest information on how things will work over there. We did some other training specific to the mission as well. Last night we went into the night doing foreign weapons training (where I got annoyed that I know more about most of them than the “instructors”, including the difference between an RPD and RPK machine gun for example. In any case, foreign weapons training is basically a quick review of how to clear weapons you might likely find over there – Kalashnikov-type weapons being the most common.

Today I started Standard First Aid – something that we’re supposed to do constantly to stay current, but I’ve actually not done the full course in quite a while, so it’s good to get back to review CPR and those sorts of things. That will lead into this weekend, when I’m doing Combat First Aid – which is more specific to the sorts of injuries you might see in a war zone. It’s not as detailed as the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) course, a ten day intensive course that 25% of the task force should have before we deploy. I wanted to get on that course, but I wasn’t one of the people chosen for it. Instead I’m doing the Unit Ethics Coordinator course next week. That should also be quite interesting, and I’m sure it will generate a lot of good discussion. With several recent stories in the media, we’ll certainly not be short of things to talk about.

I know my departure date now, which is cool. It gives me some ability to organize my life a bit. I was worried I’d be sitting around waiting for weeks to get on the go, and I’ve discovered that for better or worse that’s actually not really good for anyone – it’s just better to get on with things. Being in touch with the people we’re replacing and seeing how things are going there is actually getting us kind of excited about getting on with the job. Also, the chaotic feeling we’re getting as all the last minute stuff gets done is starting to become overwhelming. It’s just time to get done with being here, and get on the way.

Written by Nick

January 19, 2012 at 10:49 pm

And We’re Back…

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Back to Gagetown. I arrived back in the area Saturday night with my wife, she came to drop me off to resume workup training, and mainly because we wanted to go for dinner at a particular restaurant in Fredericton that we discovered on arriving no longer exists! Nevertheless we had a nice evening out with an old friend of mine from a course six years ago. She’s out of the military now, but her then-shaggy-haired boyfriend is now her Army Captain husband. We hit a wine bar for a long night of revelry before heading back to our hotel.

I got back to the shacks Sunday afternoon and set about sort of unpacking. I have a fair bit less stuff here now, because I’m trying to more or less live out of my barrack box until it’s time to leave. I’m here until February 3rd, and literally every day is booked with some sort of training activity. Tomorrow I’m off to do convoy ranges at Swan Creek Lake. I got some frostbite watching the demos today, but tomorrow should be a little warmer as I understand it. Wednesday I have… I can’t actually remember, and Thursday I start first aid training, a good refresher. Standard then combat first aid will take me through the weekend, and then we move on to some other stuff. Mostly it’s “classroom” so I shouldn’t be too bothered about things like cold.

We’ve got about an inch of snow on the ground. Kabul apparently got something like a foot over the weekend, though it won’t likely last long.

Today was also my first day wearing my CADPAT(AR) uniform – desert cam. It’s just weird seeing my reflection in it – or people milling around in it. We are also a Sergeant Major’s worst nightmare, because climactic conditions mean we have to make use of all our cold weather gear, which is all green. I don’t think this will make sense to the average civilian, but mixing different uniform components is generally a big no-no that drives those charged with enforcing dress and deportment ballistic. Alas, we carry on.

I got my departure date today (although it’s not 100%, I haven’t seen it on paper), early on in the relief-in-place, which is good. I won’t have a lot of time sitting around between the end of training and when I head off.

In addition to all the training on the schedule I’m still working at learning the language. I got my hands on some better materials and I’m starting to get a grip on the basics of things. It’s tough to learn a language that literally in no way resembles any language I know. I’m starting to wrap my head around things like basic grammar, and very slowly building up a little vocabulary. I have a lot of lessons left though, and I’m hoping that between the different tools I have and the time remaining I’ll have some better skills.

For those of you reading this regularly (or stumbling upon it – that seems to happen from time to time too!), what do you want me to tell you about? I feel like I’m not telling that great a story yet, but I’m not totally sure if there’s better directions. Use the comment feature to tell me what you might want to see.

Written by Nick

January 16, 2012 at 11:45 pm

Over the halfway point for Block 1.

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Had a nice weekend at home, a little cocktail party last night and an overall pretty relaxing couple of days. In fact, last week in general wasn’t bad at all, even with the nonsense of training being unexpectedly rearranged. We’ve been lucking out with weather in particular. Friday morning was an early one to do our BFT. Rather than a boring route on base, we followed a rail trail which was snow-covered, just tamped down by ATV tracks. Made for a little bit of a harder go than normal, but nothing insurmountable. In fact, the snow made us use a bunch of different muscle groups, which was probably a good little workout. I trailed a bit behind the pack as I got into a conversation with one of the NCOs – but I ran a bit to close up in the end. I was in in 2:14 which was a little longer than an ideal time but well within the standards.

Getting done nice and early afforded me enough time to go get a nap in before the Task Force BBQ in the afternoon. I also sat in on the J4 Conference, which gave me a little insight into how the logistics end of the tour is unfolding. I’m the kind of person who gets a little obsessed with knowing as much as possible even outside of what I need to worry about. It was kind of pointless for me to be there, but the last one apparently covered some things I should have known about, so I went. I do feel good about the fact that we seem to be well ahead of where we need to be to get things done. I’ve started on the leave plan, and next up will be performance management stuff we should be able to get going on pretty quickly this week.

This week I’m hoping for more good weather, as we’re spending most of it on ranges – starting with pistol ranges tomorrow, jungle lanes, M72 though we just get to watch, only 48 rockets are available for the whole organization, so not many people get to actually shoot them. Mind you, I’m combat arms, so I might be one of the people who gets to shoot a live one. Who knows…?  Some more briefings and possibly the cancelled first aid training will happen this week as well I think. Not really clear yet.

This weekend, I’ve got to get all my UAB straightened out – going to hit Costco and fill up my MOBs with some more snivel kit stuff, and next week it gets sent out, and I have no idea how long it’ll be before I see it again! I’m going to be leaving here after the following week, so I’m going to try to get everything organized so that I’m basically able to live out of what’s coming back with me in January, and all of that will be what I take over to Afghanistan.

The other piece of the puzzle I’m contemplating is HLTA travel plans – where we’re going to go, we’ve discussed a few ideas, and if I can can firm some of those ideas up I’m going to have an easier time picking my leave block. I found an awesome GAP Adventures 17 day Trans-Mongolian Railroad tour which sounds incredible, but I don’t think that’s as appealing to the wife. Another time perhaps then. However, I don’t want to do something that’s easy to do another time – we get a fairly good-sized allowance for HLTA and I want to use every penny of it if I can, head to somewhere a little different/out of the ordinary. The tour aspect holds some appeal because then I won’t have as much planning to deal with, and in some cases, I can use HLTA money for more things. Cruises work the same way, but they’re really not that interesting to me, so I don’t know.

Let’s see how the week shapes up…

Written by Nick

November 27, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Some Real Training Gets Underway

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Things are getting underway, after a  slow start. Thursday morning I went was woken up pretty early by a bunch of people heading out for an early breakfast so they could go to the range. I got up and went out for a nice run through the Lindsay Valley, which is a trail system on base. Was a nice morning to watch the sunrise. The day’s agenda was pretty simple – CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear warfare) training, one of the IBTS checks in the box we have to get for whatever reason. In the morning we did some dry training, getting refreshed on how to use our kit – a “bunny suit”, overboots, and heavy rubber gloves, and of course our gas masks. I hadn’t used the one I have in a gas environment and forgot to bring it to Gagetown last week, so I didn’t get to do the Quantitative Fit Test, which confirms that the mask fits and seals properly before you actually get the gas. I was taking a bit of a chance, but it sealed alright during rehearsals so it wasn’t too bad.

Once we were done that we went off to lunch, and afterward headed out to N6, the gas hut. It’s a pretty simple one room building with a hot plate which disperses CS (tear gas). CS comes in capsules, just like you take medication in. You heat it up and the gas is formed almost immediately. So, first time you go on, you’re in Dress State Four – completely in the suit. It’s done to allow you to get familiar with the layout and get confidence in the kit – you do some exercises and moving around to see that it works. Then you head out. Next time you go in, you simulate being caught out in an attack – so you pull up a hood, cover your hands under your arms, and run for shelter – right into a room now well filled with gas. So you get a good feel for the effect, get all suited up, and then you change canisters. You take a huge breath, unscrew the canister, hand it to your buddy, and then reinstall it – which is a little tough when you don’t have peripheral vision. No issue. Last trip in, you do the full decontamination drill – using a fake version of RSDL – reactive skin decontaminating lotion – greasy, nasty stuff that gets all over you, but the real stuff works against pretty much any chemical agent.

Once we got done that, it was a done day, and a long hot shower to get all the RSDL shit off me, and we took off for wings, myself, the S3, and the S4 of my camp. We’re all around the same age so it seems a good idea to start hanging out a fair bit, we’re going to be living in close quarters for the next year or so anyhow. Good times were had by all, even me sweating away with the Thai chili sauce on the wings.

This morning was our day to get up early to go to the range, so I walked over to the MSA Warehouse where our weapons are stored to sign out my C7, and we jumped on a bus out to the training area, to the Amiens 600m rifle range. We were there to complete our PWT-3, personal weapons test level three, the infantry shooting standard. Here’s the fun part: because my camp is so small and has so few augmentees, we’re lumped in with another contingent, mostly health services people – among them dentists, orthopedic surgeons, an anesthetist, and so on.  Because they are deploying they have to shoot to the infantry standard (well, in theory, but I’ll get to that…). In fact, for this tour, they’re getting the CF’s Gunfighter supplement, which is a much more intensive course in close quarter and instinctive shooting. Should be a fun few days. I shot on the first relay, and despite a stoppage keeping me from being able to get all my rounds off I passed. Not as good as usual. My boss was one off perfect, though, pretty cool. There was a subtext to the scoring brief that 29 is a pass. And there were a few 29s, suggesting that some “miscounting” might have happened.

After cycling through the butts, we were done around 2:30 and went back into camp for a couple of hours until it got dark so we could do some shooting with Monocular Night Vision Goggles and PAQ-4C laser aiming devices. In the meantime I had my first meeting with the J1, the guy who basically I work for as part of the National Command & Support Element. Trying to explain how chains of command work on this mission is complicated, and probably boring. The 1 shop’s job is basically to look after all the people over there, and so the J1 is in charge of all of that for all the Canadians there, and S1s like me function as camp adjutants for Canadians, so I will be the CO of my camp’s aide on staff work and be looking after everything for the 40 or so Canadians there in terms of leave, adminstration, and so on.

The meeting wasn’t too detailed, just a chance to meet our peers and get an idea of what’s being worked on. There are three major things that are being dealt with – leave, performance assessments, and HLTA issues. All are a ways away from getting organized but at least we know where things are going.

I got out just in time to catch the ride back to the range for the night shoot, which went pretty quickly, and it started to rain just as we were giving the final ammunition declarations to get off the range. Buses took us back to the MSA to turn in the rifles (which we couldn’t clean because they haven’t bothered issuing us cleaning kits!) and now I’m back in the shacks. And pretty tired.

Tomorrow I’m going for a run with the S3 and S4 because we don’t have planned camp PT. The boss really doesn’t seem to have much concern about that, he just cares that we’re doing some form of PT, and it was his asking that prompted us to plan to do it together, so that was good. After that we’re back out to ranges (Vimy 600m range this time I think) for a familiarization shoot on the C6 general purpose machine gun (sometimes called “The Pig”), and the C9A2 light machine gun. Not really a big thing for me but it’ll be interesting to see the doctors with them. Should be fun. And that’s the week done, I’ll pick up my leave pass and figure out a way back to Halifax tomorrow night.

Next week, we do Gunfighter training and start combat first aid, and at some point I’ve got to get over to clothing stores to draw all of my desert pattern kit. In a bit of forward thinking, when we come back from Christmas leave, we can leave out green CADPAT at home, and tans become our dress of the day until we leave. Makes good sense.

Written by Nick

November 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Write Down Timings, Then Show Up Early Anyhow…

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Before I left the office Monday night I scribbled a note about when we were due in this morning for a parade which was supposed to see a large number of “while so employed” promotions being done. I had down that we were forming up at 7:30. So I made a point of being at Battalion at around 7:20. And I was one of the last to arrive. And walked down the frontage instead of just hiding in the back as I went to fall in with my camp, which was of course at the far end of the hall. Fortunately, nothing more was said, and the parade didn’t end up starting until 7:30, at which point we were told that the WSE promotions weren’t ready anyhow, and since we were all here, we were going to carry on with drug testing. Not really a surprise, and not something I’m worried about, but it was quite a production. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad in terms of organization, and I quickly went and stood in the next line of the day – to see the medics who wanted to review my needle book to make sure I got all my shots (which I was already signed off for before I left Halifax – pay attention, there’s a theme here!). Good to go. By that time I headed to the kitchen for lunch as the next line, to pick up my PRV form, was too long.

Back from lunch I got into another line, and into a conversation with some people about the idea of doing a social experiment of getting some soldiers to form a line at random, and see how many people would join without knowing what it was actually for. After I got to the counter, a flustered clerk reported he couldn’t find my paperwork. Why, you ask? Because all the Reservist files are segregated, and were in another office. With no line. Oh well. Off to mental health screening after that, a quick chat with a social worker (which again I had already done), a new signature on the PRV, and back to the office to drop it off.

I did find out that I’m getting paid tomorrow, though my contract hasn’t quite come through, it should be sorted for next pay day though.

The day ended with some notes from an OGrp (and a meeting I was supposed to attend that no one bothered to tell me about!) about what’s going on for the next few days, and we were gone. Tomorrow, I’m off to get my CBRN IBTS check in the box – which means a trip to the gas hut – a room that will be nicely filled with CS (tear gas) to confirm I know how to mask up, drink with my mask on, decontaminate myself, and all that fun stuff. following that, we’re meeting with the guy who’s come back from our camp to pick his brain a little more, which might include beer and wings at a place off base… we’ll just have to see.

Written by Nick

November 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

Slight insomnia

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Back from weekend leave and feeling kind of restless. This week should be interesting, we are actually going to be starting to really train. Tomorrow morning will find me in briefings in the morning (I think involving guys on the “reverse TAV” – people serving on Roto 0 back to share their knowledge), and the afternoon is a “free day” – which means probably some combination of PT and some other administration time. I do have some things I need to find time to do this week, like ordering all my desert kit that I was apparently supposed to get before coming to Gagetown. Tuesday is more of the same, but there’s nothing in any detail on my schedule, probably just a slew of briefings on money issues, MFRC, leave, and so on and so forth. Wednesday we’re off to the gas hut to get tear gassed and confirm our CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear) drills are good. I guess I’ll pay for forgetting my mask last week if it turns out mine doesn’t fit. Thursday and Friday are ranges, and I should be on leave and back to Halifax Friday night.

I started a bit more into my Dari course – the first modules are just getting familiar with the Persian alphabet and script – some simple stuff, so I’ve been doing some writing, copying out various words they have – a random assortment, but I figure that it’s a good idea to just get used to the feel of the language. Like Arabic, there aren’t really any written short vowels in Dari, it’s left to the reader to fill them in, something that a native speaker would do implicitly by context. That’s the tricky thing I think I’m going to find. If you don’t know what vowels go into a word, you can’t pronounce something just from really. I’m hoping that there’s a way to tackle this, but I think it’s rote memorization to a great extent – but again, I’m hoping by getting a jump on language courses I’ll have some ability to interact with Afghan when I get there.

Written by Nick

November 14, 2011 at 12:15 am

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Slowly Taking Shape

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This morning started with our first PT session, which was supposed to be a 6.2km ruck march. It turned out to be a little longer due to a little navigation error on the part of our boss, who’s not familiar with Gagetown. Nothing serious though – although turning around a platoon marching on a single lane track is kind of fun. We got done in a little over an hour. The timing that we have to make on our battle fitness test is 13km in 2:26, so that pace was faster than necessary, and only modestly uncomfortable for me. I made the mistake of doing the march in my new, not broken in desert boots, and I’m left with a couple of little blisters. I think I’ll be sure to do the test in my much more comfortable Hi-Tec Magnums. I’ll be wanting them when eventually it gets cold and wet, for now we’ve had ridiculously good weather, that I’m sure I’ve now jinxed.

After PT we headed over to the weapons vault to pull out our C7s and carry on ToETs – I have no idea what the acronym stands for but it’s basically a handling test – shows that you can test a weapon for function, and carry out all the drills to operate it properly. My fellow staff officers laughed that 4 Master Corporals went with us to “run us through” as though we might have problems. I guess when you have so many Air Force and Navy people around, and people who don’t handle firearms often you need that. They were happy when we said we needed no refreshers and would just do the test as the rules require.

As soon as we were done we dropped the bangsticks back in the vault and headed off to lunch – I chose something erroneously labeled chicken shawarma, my fault for thinking it’d be any good. It wasn’t terrible though, it was just passable. I headed back to my room to start looking for ways to start learning Dari, a rather prescient decision.

Later in the afternoon, the entire Task Force was assembled in a drill hall so that the DCO and RSM could address us. I didn’t realize it but they were on PT with us this morning, nice guys. The DCO’s address was pretty good, he conveyed some pretty simple messages. First, that they’d just been over to Afghanistan and met with the Roto 0 leadership, and they passed on frank lessons learned – specifically about their workup training.

First thing – we are going to do a lot more intense weapons training – including a lot of quick reaction/close quarters shooting, especially pistol shooting. Two weeks ago, a “green-on-blue” incident saw three Australian Army mentors shot by an ANA soldier who “went rogue”. We’re going to get a lot of range time (and I saw the ammo allotments!) to be prepared for that. Second – to prevent these things, we’re getting a lot of cultural and language training, because most of these incidents can be attributed to ISAF conduct. We want to prevent that. The Roto 0 guys got some training in this regard, but nowhere near enough by the sounds of it, and they were also primarily educated in Pashtu, rather than Dari, the language mainly spoken in the north.

The call the DCO had was pretty simple and compelling: things are going to change a lot while we are there. The Americans are pulling 1/3 of their troops out of Afghanistan next year. We want to set up to be able to leave not later than 2014. So he wants us to work ourselves out of a job – to deliver training and mentoring so good that the Afghans won’t need us anymore. He wants nothing more than to be in a position to shut down certain position in order to redeploy his assets elsewhere until the job. Works for me.

One curious thing happened tonight though after I got back from dinner. I got a knock on my door, a woman in civvies said “You know you’re supposed to be working with the J3 as a duty officer, we haven’t seen you out yet.” I was immediately confused. I think I figured it out though – when she thought I was a Logistics officer. There’s another guy with the same last name as me here, and I think it’s him. See, when we were inclearing, all of our positions were confirmed as we went through, and I’ve not been notified of any changes, so, I’m pretty sure that I’m not who she thought I was. Problem is, I basically screwed my morning plans for not being sure, because now I’ve got to show up for PT with her cell while she confirms where I’m supposed to be, or something. I don’t have access to CFTPO to check, and don’t know anyone who does tonight.

All good fun, I suppose. I’m sure everything will come together fine tomorrow, and my boss has his OGrp tomorrow to sort out all the white space in our training plan, so we’ll be sitting around less and doing interesting stuff more. There’s lots I need – and want – to learn, so sitting in my room watching TV and playing Civilization V is not what I really want to be doing.

Written by Nick

November 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm

Starting to get to the change…

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I spent this part weekend in Gagetown on an exercise with my unit, the last full one I’m going to be on for a year. I’m not part of the Rifle Company anymore, but I offered to help them run some ranges they need to get done for their training year. It was a little bit of a disaster, but it was a learning experience like every time I go out. It perhaps contained some good learnings that will serve me well when I leave on tour.

We use a process to get just about everything called “the estimate” which can range in detail from a very quick “combat estimate” about how to carry our something as simple as a hasty attack, to extremely detailed concepts like the Operation Planning Process which is done at much higher levels to plan things like a deployment of a force to a place like Afghanistan or really anywhere.

I got involved in the planning for this particular exercise fairly late, but even at that I probably didn’t pay enough attention, and didn’t do my own really estimate on what had to happen for my part of the show. So, I got more than a little caught off guard when certain things didn’t go anywhere near according to plan, and things weren’t as efficient as they could have been. I was running some small arms ranges that should have been done around 1pm, but we wound up running three hours late. That threw everything else off.

I don’t think I could really have intervened enough to actually prevent the major cause of the problems, but regardless, there were things I probably could have done had I really thought things through and done some more thorough checking on the prep work.

The OIC – the boss of the exercise – took me aside after the day ranges and ran me through a fairly constructive exercise about what went wrong and why, and what could have been done etc. In his customary style, though, he tied it into what I might be expecting on my tour, and some of his own experiences in Afghanistan. His time there was intense, to say the least.

So as I get two weeks from go time, I’ve got lots of food for thought on how to do things better, which are best considered during training exercises rather than “over there”.

Written by Nick

October 23, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Posted in The Beginning

Tagged with , , ,