Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘new toys

What Are You Doing When You Get Home, Anyhow?

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That’s becoming a pretty common question around here as we all plan to go our separate ways – there’s a lot of organizations rotating or leaving over the coming months and everyone’s mind is inevitably turning toward home. For the Regular Force guys, it’s not that complicated. Go on leave (quite a lot of it, actually), then return to work. It’ll soon be posting season and they’re all waiting to see what will come next. Some will be going on career courses. Some will be taking new jobs within their units. Some are getting out of the military and moving on to other things. One of our drivers who recently left us got accepted to school to become a paramedic and will be starting that when he gets back and ends his military career. Reservists, regardless of what country, tend to have a different set of parameters. Some, like my friend Chris who I met up with in Prague, just decided to spend some time traveling and will then figure out what to do next. Some will go immediately back to the civilian job they had previously. Some have full-time Reserve jobs to go back to once their leave period is up.

As for me… well… I have a civilian job to go back to. I’m going to take some time off while I’m on my post-deployment leave, but I’ll reintegrate into what some people jokingly call the “real world”, but I’m looking to see what else is available within the organization I work for because I’m not sure what I was doing before is what I want to do next. To my good fortune, it’s a big company, and there should be some great opportunities. I think I have a better idea of what I want to do than I did before. We’ve also started making some plans for my wife to continue her education a bit – a worthy investment, I think. If I’m going to drop a bunch of money to buy a new motorcycle when I get home, I can’t really not spend some money on her career prospects, right?

So, the bike. That’s the first plan. With 9D’s permission (always critical), I’m planning to pick it up as soon as I return, and after a short stay at home, head south. My parents winter in Arizona and will likely have already left town so I’m going to go visit them. I’ve been planning out the route and number of riding days, along with some stops along the way to see some people. I can’t really cast anything in stone because it’s all going to depend on making a call about the weather. Late October/early November might not work. Last year I put my bike into storage on October 22 just before I left for Gagetown, and the ride to Mahone Bay was pretty chilly – though a week later it was nice and warm and bikes were still out everywhere. In fact, if I remember right, people were still riding on New Years Day in Halifax.

If it looks good, my plan is to get as far south as I can as fast as I can, to Washington DC for a day and then onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and into North Carolina where one of my colleagues here who’s since departed lives. From there I’ll head to the Tail Of The Dragon across the Great Smoky Mountains (if the weather is good), into the Knoxville area, and then on into Arkansas, Texas (with a day off in San Antonio, I’m going to need it by then I’m sure), New Mexico, and finally Arizona for a week or so before I fly home.

Here’s hoping I have the frequent flyer points for a ticket home. I’m going to leave the bike in Arizona for the winter and return for it in the spring to ride back along a different route.

I’m reading through the awesome blog North American Circle to get ideas on routes and see how he found it went. He did it as a fundraiser. I’d love to do something like that too – but it’s not really original now. I’m hoping, however, that I can couchsurf lots of places to stay so I won’t have much to pay for but fuel. And I also hope my VStrom is a little more reliable than his BMW apparently was! The blog is full of good stories though, of the people me met and how people helped along the way, the kind of stuff that lets you thing that indeed people are generally good and worthy, which gets hard at times. I’m finding that there are a lot of couchsurfers in some places along the way that should be a help and I’m already starting to get in touch with them. The detail obsessed part of me is looking through Google maps and plotting distances, time, and routes. For the early days it’ll be all business on major highways until I’m far enough south that I can slow down a little and not worry about weather as much. Early November will still be sketchy in a few places.

I’ll get back from that in late November and have to see what comes of the rest. I know there’s lots of opportunities and options and so on. It’s amazing to think, however, that I’m probably more anxious about going back to work outside the army than I have been about really anything here – even that first convoy ride when I had no idea what was going on.

A Little Like Christmas

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As you may well recall, back in December I packed two MOB boxes full of all sorts of goodies and sent them off to come here. Last night, they arrived, delivered by a logistics convoy. It was late at night so some of our colleagues weren’t too amused in the shacks by people opening them up and rooting around. I didn’t really bother much except to find my Keurig machine and coffee, gleefully ready to bring it in to the office today and savour some really good coffee.

Alas, it was not to be.

I unpacked the machine and plugged it in and… nothing. I’m not an expert on electronics but learning fast. Part of the challenge we have here is an assortment of plugs, voltages, and amperage. I think despite my belief that I was using the right combination that something went wrong.

So we brought over another Keurig machine that was left behind and grabbed by my roommate, but it blew the fuse in the stepdown transformer at my desk, because it’s only rated for 500 amps, and the Keurig needs 1500. The shops here have a perfect transformer. For $100. We’re trying to find a solution. And hoping the good people at Keurig will replace my machine, because, well, supporting the troops is the right thing to do or something like that.

The other thing I’m incredibly excited about is the massive memory foam mattress topper I bought on whim at Costco during our Epic Shopping Trip. It was a fight to get it on a top bunk, but it’s all done now. I have a nice civilized set of sheets and all, but I seem to find sleeping in my ranger blanket more comfortable, so I’ll probably just keep doing that, but hopefully this will make it all a little more comfortable. The rest of the box contents were what we call “consumables” – soap, razor blades, shaving soap, and so on. I had a nice big score of a 50% off anything up to $250 at The Body Shop just before I sent the boxes off, so I got my favourite shaving soap there, and I think I’ll actually have some to take home when I’m done.

So other than the Keurig letdown, life’s brightening up a little, at least in terms of my little piece of the world. There’s lots going on beyond, though – more green-on-blue incidents, two yesterday. It’s a harsh reminder of having to retain vigilance. The nature of our work environment makes it a minor threat, but nevertheless, it’s probably the main thing to worry about. There was also a large bombing plot foiled at the Ministry of Defence downtown, which caught a lot of attention. It’s probably a good thing to remember that we’re not “in Kansas”, but it’s quite honestly easy to forget that from time to time.

I’ve been watching, with interest, a number of discussions in various forums about the future of Afghanistan, and the effectiveness of efforts here. Though I tend to stay fairly positive about how things are working here, optimistic that things here have improved and will continue to improve. However, there’s been several discussions about how to “do” counterinsurgency here, how good the doctrine is and how well it’s been implemented. The reality is that it seems like that all important principle of “unity of effort” isn’t perfect, and I saw that seeing the disconnect between various civilian agencies and NGOs and the military. It’s not accurate to say it’s totally dysfunctional, but one has to wonder if we’ve managed to really achieve that unity of effort, and to really understand the environment, particularly harnessing the tribal structures and mechanisms of governance. That said, the fact that people can recognize that there’s challenges there is at least an indication that there’s an understanding of the issue. Suffice it to say, the discussions have added a lot to my reading list in terms of studying COIN and development and so on. It’s not easy to see the situation through the eyes of those living here, and the impression I’ve gotten is that there’s no single POV amongst Afghans – people from down south see things remarkably differently from people in Kabul. Hardly surprising, though.

It boils down to a fairly simple conclusion, though. We can give people tools and ideas and support, but it’s up to them to decide how to use them, and what the future here will look like. I’ve always said I’d love to come here as a tourist some day, so I hope it works out.

Written by Nick

March 27, 2012 at 6:19 am

Welcome To Kabul

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After a long trip, I’ve arrived in Kabul. I was impressed that despite the long travel time, and the time change of 8.5 hours, I actually didn’t feel a great deal of jet lag.

Stepping of the plane at Kabul International Airport I was struck immediately by the sight of the snow-capped Hindu Kush mountains, which surround the city. Then I got my first few breaths of the air – thin at 5900ft above sea level, and not exactly fresh. But medics assure us that while winter air quality is poor, due to people burning just about anything for heat, the spring winds deal with it, and it’s not that bad according to testing.

KAIA is a busy place, and we were shepherded off quickly to start inclearance.

I managed to sleep on most of the flight, which probably helped. And every time we stopped along the way, we got fed, which coupled nicely with the NyQuil I was popping to make sure I slept.

Prior to leaving we’d heard that there was challenges with heat where we were sleeping, about long delays and not enough food along the way, all of which turned out to be false.

I’m still “in transit” to my final destination, but getting into the swing of things. The one problem we have is that so much is changing that everything I thought I knew about the next few months seems a little unclear. But that’s how things go. There’s a saying in the military: no plan survives contact. So I’m not surprised. I’ll just roll with it all.

Written by Nick

February 25, 2012 at 1:17 am

The Wrap Up

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Finishing off the last week of training. It’s getting a little bit crazy around 2RCR because we’re now at the point where in addition to trying to meet all of our training requirements we are also trying to complete a lot of last minute administrative requirements. All those things covered in the DAG now have to get sorted out for the last time, and we’re also coming to grips with a lot of new things that have fallen out of the woodwork. For some of the contingents it’s made more complicated by the arrival of a whole lot more Reservists when we came back from Christmas leave. They have to be pushed through all the processes a lot faster than normal because of the shortened timeline. We’ve got only a couple of these guys, so it’s not so bad. That said, our camp clerk is away on course now and so I’m doing a lot of the work catching up on the paperwork – or at least getting people to do it. One of the specific things is a form we need completed for everyone which has a complicated, specific requirement, and to make it extra complicated, it is a Protected document, meaning it can’t be transmitted by email without encryption. So, I collected these all on a memory stick, and reviewed them. No good. Most of the troops hadn’t read the instructions on how to complete the last part, so I had to kick them back out to be redone.

While I’ve got all this to do, I have my own training to take care of. I’ve knocked off my first aid training, as I mentioned, and went on to Personnel Recovery, which I didn’t get to see all of because of the Unit Ethics Coordinator Course I started today. Go figure, in response to how the first serial of the PR course went it was condensed from two days into one. The UEC course is actually somewhat interesting, in no small part because I did a little bit of coursework on it in university, and one of the officers who profoundly influenced my career studied it more in detail. That would be LCol Ross Cossar, currently the Commanding Officer of the Hastings & Prince Edward Regiment. Then-Major Cossar was published in the Canadian Army Journal in Fall 2008, with an article worth reading entitled Unethical Leadership And Its Relationship To Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you have an interest in military psychology I strongly recommend reading this. Further, it cites some excellent sources, including the works of Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, specifically his books On Killing and On Combat, both of which are widely viewed as required reading for those in uniform.

Grappling with the impact of ethics on military service has had a profound effect on the Canadian Army. Most Canadians will be familiar with the Somalia Affair, the torture and murder of a Somali teenager by members of the Canadian Airborne Regiment during a deployment in that troubled country in 1993. While that event itself was horrible, it exposed a much more deep and troubling problem in the Canadian Forces, pervasive leadership flaws which directly impact our effectiveness as an organization. It was far from the only such incident, and they’re of course not confined to Canada, but it was probably the first, most profound such incident. It was the Somalia Affair that helped drive the interest in ethics that led me to sit in the classroom in which I found myself today.

Militaries have a unusual role in society. We are charged with the responsibility to defend the national interest, including with the right to use violence to do so. As such, you might expect that we have a specific contract with the nation with respect to that responsibility. For example, in Canada and any other democratic society, the military is controlled by civilian authorities, with an emphasis on separation of the two. Canadian Forces members are barred from standing in elections or holding public office while serving (there are apparently some exceptions, but they’re rare), or from engaging in political activities where they may be seen as speaking for the CF. We are expected to hold ourselves to a high standard, perhaps a higher standard than the average member of the public because of the role we have.

What happens when the opposite happens? When militaries fail to meet that standard? The repercussions are severe. In fact, in history, the cost of such developments can be mission failure. The Vietnam War wasn’t a military defeat by the North Vietnamese in the sense that their firepower and technology allowed them to defeat the US and their South Vietnamese allies (by the way, if you want to read an amazing account of that, I’d suggest Frank Snepp’s Decent Interval). Neither was the 40th Army driven out of Afghanistan by the mujahideen because of their strategic or tactical acumen. Rather, in both cases, the national will to keep spending blood and treasure there was destroyed. Media – social media, the internet, and the conventional media – can make that process very rapid indeed. Witness reactions to the video of Marines urinating on corpses. Or the Haditha Incident, where photos came out that made clear that what had actually happened (the murder of innocent bystanders, basically) had been covered up. We risk that same problem any time we deploy. The fact that everyone has camera phones these days, that things can be spread via the internet rapidly, underscores the idea that the whole world is watching all the time.

In most cases, the right thing to do is fairly simple. It’s obvious. There’s no debate or discussion. Sometimes, however, we face choices where there isn’t an obvious palatable option, and the role of ethical training is to help soldiers understand how to apply the ethos that we have developed – and to know where to go for help should they be unable to resolve a dilemma. Not that we’ll always have all the answers, but it’s a good start. And we’re also realizing and understanding that if mistakes do indeed happen, that it’s better to be transparent and address them head on rather than hoping they go away. That applies as well to the military as it does to any industry or to anyone’s personal life. Think about it: as a child, was it ultimately better to hide or lie about what you might have done, or to work to accept responsibility? It seems so simple, doesn’t it?

The course focus, though, is on how to convey these messages to our soldiers, to get them to understand and buy into the Army Ethics Program, to be able to lead them through good discussions about issues and cases that allow them to understand and apply the values we want them to embrace. How to be a better facilitator, as it were. I think it’s a great skill to build on – it’ll help me as an advisor, it’ll help me in my civilian career, it’ll be incredibly valuable. And part of the perk of doing what I do is that I get all this training for free. That’s something that a lot of people don’t realize about Reservists, but a fact to which more and more are starting to become attuned.

This is only the start of a bit of waxing poetic I think I might do – but I think it’s as important as just recounting what I’m actually doing. As always, let me know what you think.

Written by Nick

January 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm

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

Professional Development Day!

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When I was a kid in school, a “PD Day” was a Friday off. Not so in the Army. Today’s main thrust is an endless slew of briefings on a variety of subjects. Law Of Armed Conflict, Rules of Engagement, Media Awareness, Information Security, and Staff Procedures are the order of the day.

This week’s been productive. My staff duties are getting done ahead of most camps, and I now have all of my mission kit, having picked up my new rucksack yesterday.

A few years ago, the Army embarked on a project called Clothe The Soldier, which for a while was dubbed “Tease The Soldier” as a lot of stuff took a while to get fielded. The last major item I didn’t have was the rucksack. To design it, DND turned to a bunch of scientists, engineers, and generally smart people to design an incredibly sophisticated modern load carriage system. While it may be awesome, it’s easily the most complicated piece of kit I have ever been issued, so much of my evening went to assembling it, the most difficult part of which is custom bending the frame stays which are made of 1/8″ aluminum bar stock. Don’t think I damaged the furniture, and I think I got all the angles right.

How it’ll work on top of a flak vest with ballistic plates, I’m not sure. I don’t think they thought of that. I still have a lot of adjustments on it to play with. It’ll look good in the corner of my room since I doubt I’ll have any operational reason to have it on.

I got off to a rough start this morning though, my nagging cold of the last few days took a turn for the worse, and so I skipped PT this morning and headed to the MIR (medics) to get it sorted. Two hours after being hmmed and hawed over by a couple of Med Techs, I was sent back to work with a fistful of OTC meds, and probably don’t have a dreaded sinus infection.

The briefings haven’t been terrible, fortunately, because some of the presenters have been pretty good. The JAG Officer who did the RoE brief could have a second career as a comedian.

At lunch, we headed back to the LAV Barn for “the dip”, treating our uniforms with Permethrin, a potent (illegal for general use in Canada) pesticide to deal with mosquitoes. We’ll ignore that at Kabul’s altitude there are no mosquitoes, but the Army has SOPs and they haven’t been updated for this Op yet it seems. (Update: Permethrin is also effective against arthropods – spiders – and that’s why we are issued it.)

Part of the Media brief covered social media, and it was interesting. It’s a good thing to touch on here. While there is a particularly robust rule in place, it’s not really practical. I follow a pretty simple rule of thumb that you’ll see. Actually, it’s more like rules.

You won’t see me publish my full name. It’s not because I want to be aloof, it’s just a basic PERSEC thing. Most of you know who I am anyhow, but the random reader doesn’t need to know that to follow the story. Similarly I won’t disclose the identities of my coworkers to protect their information.

The nature of this mission is such that there won’t be thrilling stories of kinetic operations anyhow, but even if there was, I won’t have anything to say about them until long after the fact. Likewise, while I’ll tell you about what we are training on, I can’t and won’t get into specifics of TTP’s, the specifics of how we do things. Plenty of that stuff is readily available via various channels anyhow, lamentably, but I won’t add to it.

All I can really tell you about is my experiences, my knowledge, my story. I think it’ll be reasonably interesting even with colouring inside the lines.

All that is left today is to hang my Permethrin soaked uniforms to dry over the weekend, and then off home for the weekend where I’ll be spending some quality time at Costco filling my MOB boxes with tour goodies.

Written by Nick

December 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Into Every Training Plan A Little Rain Must Fall

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Today was our last day out in the training area until the end of this block of training when we get RTU for Christmas leave. Today’s training was a trip to Drummond Close Quarter Battle Lanes (which are commonly known as “jungle lanes”) to do pairs fire and movement. Rather than a conventional (static) range where you fire from a specific firing point, jungle lanes are lanes in which two firers move down the range engaging a series of targets. Normally, it’s done with electronic pop-up targets, but to make things easier, we just used conventional paper targets called Figure 11s, basically the silhouette of an angry looking bad guy sometimes called Chargin’ Charlie. The aim is to work with a partner and practice communication, basic battle drills, and so on.

We took buses out to Drummond, and divided into five groups headed to the different ranges. It wasn’t until we got off the MSVS’s at lane 6 that I realized that my friend Adam was on the same relay. Being that we are both infantry, we decided we’d pair up, and we ran through the dry training before the live range pretty quickly. We were set to go first before being stopped for not having flak jackets, which we’re supposed to have already but had to order. So we waited for some other teams to go downrange and grabbed theirs on the way back out.

When our turn came it went pretty slick, though I think I kind of rushed things and got myself into Condition Black (a physiological state where heartrate and respiration makes fine motor skills difficult and there’s an element of panic), and it wasn’t as good as I would have liked. This was the first range I did with my SORD rig, too, and mag changes were easier than with our old Tactical Vest but not as slick as I’d have liked. I’ve also decided I don’t like the way my single point sling hooks up: the sling caught the charging handle of the rifle a couple of times and made it difficult to do some drills.

The lane was full of sucking mud, and I slipped into a puddle, coating my boots in mud and drawing laughter from the safety staff, and Adam once he had the chance to get some rounds downrange. It’s drying off now, but I don’t think I’ll be able to wear those boots for a couple of days, and they’ll need quite a brushing off when I do.

We were done in no time, which was great as the rain started hammering down, and I scrambled into the back of a LAV-III parked on the range to get out of it. We were done so early that our buses were nowhere near picking us up, so the range staff decided to pack everyone into two MSVS’s and send us back to camp that way. It’s a long, slow ride because army trucks cannot take public highways while loaded with soldiers (“trooplifting”). I called shotgun as a joke, and was rewarded with a ride in the cab of the truck which was much more comfortable, despite the driver’s taste in some pretty heavy rap.

Getting back to camp, I gave my rifle a quick clean and turned it in and returned to the office to finish off the leave plan, which I had to reformat to fit in the master document. It was a tedious process, but I got it done eventually. I was also able to learn that my second pay on my Class C contract went to the wrong account, because some clerk transposed digits in the bank transit. Fortunately, a friend at the bank got it sorted out in no time, and the clerk who was responsible has been reassigned, apparently. It wasn’t only me that had problems with pay based on this transposition problem. It should now be good to go for next pay, on December 15th.

I then headed over to clothing stores and was able to pick up my very own flak vest, right after the last range I’ll need it for until the new year. Oh well. It’s good to have and get used to wearing. We have training plates that simulate the weight of the bullet resistant ballistic plates we’ll get before we go, and as I’m not used to wearing them, it only makes sense to start.

We capped off the day with a slightly comical briefing on “AFV Recognition”. Normally this would be “armoured vehicle recognition”, how to identify different types of tanks and other vehicles. This, however, was more “Afghan Vehicle Recognition”. I’m not totally checked out on the differences between Toyota Corollas (90% of the cars in Afghanistan), Corolla Sarachis (station wagons), Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, Toyota 4Runners, Toyota HiAce minivans, jingle trucks, cargo trucks, and so on. The only real key point is that the bad guys use all of them. A Toyota Land Cruiser carrying 700kg of homemade explosives was what killed MCpl Greff in Kabul just before Remembrance Day, after all.

Tomorrow we have nothing official on the schedule, so it’ll be some cultural briefing and readings, some language study, and my unit CO (and possibly the CO of my old unit) are going to be in town for a graduation parade at the Infantry School. I’m hoping to see them for lunch or something like that. I should also be able to head over to clothing stores again to pick up my new rucksack, which apparently arrived in a shipment today, but the supply technicians hadn’t been able to get all the parts together when I picked up my flak vest.

Friday is a bunch more briefings before I head back to Halifax again, where I’ll be off to Costco collecting stuff to pack in my UAB since it’ll be shipping out next week. I’ve got some ideas about what to pack – simple things mostly – coffee, tea, shave kit type stuff, and so on. I have lots of space, so I’ll fill it up with stuff I want to make sure I have over there, rather than being at the mercies of whatever I can acquire.

Here’s a picture of me from the range today, making the best effort I can to look like I’m having fun with all the liquid sunshine.

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Written by Nick

November 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Posted in Workup Training

Tagged with , ,

Kicking Off Week Three

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Last week ended alright – got some tear gas, got my rifle qualification done, and did a rather boring machine gun familiarization shoot which culminated in standing outside freezing waiting for a ride back to camp before I headed back to Halifax for a weekend that was quite enjoyable. Joy had been shopping for a lot of “home decor” stuff, and my friend Logan and I were set to work getting it all put up, which went well. It was slightly comical, as well. We tried to hang a mirror and couldn’t get it level despite using a laser level. It was only after drilling a few holes we realized that the problem was that the hanger points on the mirror itself weren’t level.

I also bought a Keurig K-Cup coffee machine to take with us. Our TAV folks told us our camp has terrible coffee so a few of us decided to bring our own kit for it. It’s going over in one of my MOBs.

This morning we again had some fantastic weather to start off the day. I started off the day with a little PT and headed over to sign out my rifle, which turned out to be a little bit pointless. Today’s range was a familiarization with the Canadian Forces’ Gunfighter program, a combat shooting program including a lot of close quarter and instinctive shooting. It’s a good program, the problem with it is that it’s a lot of stuff we should teach new soldiers from the outset rather than having to force people to “unlearn” all the bad habits they were taught. It was a 150 round shoot, nothing too exciting really, but a good bit of practice, since all shooting is good shooting. Anyhow, drawing my own rifle was pointless because the range had rifles set up with special slings and iron sights and we didn’t use our own. It did give me a chance to clean it a little, which it desperately needed. I have never signed for such a filthy rifle, most CQ’s I’ve seen would never have accepted it back into lockup in the condition it was in when I first brought it out.

We were done on the range around 2pm, so we headed back to Battalion, where I drew my SORD Modular Fighting Rig. For a while now, the CF has accepted that the Tactical Vest which came into service a few years ago was not adequate to meet the needs of soldiers deployed in places like Afghanistan, and they’ve been trialing several replacements. As I understand it, we’re the first group to trial this particular option formally, though it’s been a popular choice for soldiers as an off-the-shelf purchase, one that is evidently begrudgingly tolerated by the powers that be. We’re also getting some other new Gucci items we haven’t seen yet.

After dropping my rifle off I headed next to Clothing Stores to get fitted for a flak vest (body armour) and a new rucksack, and then to draw my new kit. Dragging two MOB boxes behind me I left with virtually everything I’ll need for overseas. In fact, that only things I’m missing are items that won’t be issued until I get there. It’s a lot of stuff.

All the stuff...

That was my day. I was planning to do all the kit issue stuff tomorrow, thinking I wouldn’t have the chance today, but now I’m a day ahead, which is good, because I think I’ll have a chance tomorrow to get some other personal administration stuff done, things like getting new orthotics, getting a haircut (which I desperately need), and going to figure out from the clerks why I haven’t been paid. I’m also going to take a fair bit of my stuff over to clothing stores to exchange – anything old, worn, damaged, obsolete – and there’s a fair bit of that kind of thing that I have here. I’m also going to get at least one MOB ready to close up to be delivered to the traffic techs to get shipped off.

We don’t really have anything else on the schedule until Friday, a BFT and BBQ – but there’s lots that will come up I’m sure.

Written by Nick

November 21, 2011 at 7:13 pm