Afghanistan-A-Go-Go

A Reservist's Tale Of A Tour

Posts Tagged ‘PERSEC

Down To The Short Strokes

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I knew this week was going to be terrible. I don’t have a clerk working for me at the moment as he’s on a course that I’m sure will benefit us all when we leave. Thus, I had to very quickly learn how clerks work their magic in order to get my entire contingent’s files in order.

It’s a good thing I tend to be a quick study. Monday night, the S3 (Ops/Training Guy) and I “stayed after school” going through about 80 files making sure they were set to be turned in to the Orderly Room, where they then go up to be signed off by the CO to confirm the member is ready to deploy.

The file includes all sorts of different components, the key to which is the Personal Readiness Verification form, which all sorts of people have to sign off as being “Green”. If anything isn’t Green, then we can’t deploy the soldier. Turns out that a good chunk of the files aren’t all Green, and so we were trying to figure out who needed to be fixed, what they needed, and how we could go about getting it done. It was a long night, but a fairly successful one. We had our boss stop in for a while so he could sign off his component, and he made a point of commenting on how well we were working together. The mutual desire to get the hell out of there was probably the best motivator we had.

As of tonight, we’ve got most of them done and turned in, and tomorrow I’ll have the last of them done, or at least most. There’s some troops with some issues that have more complex fixes, but I’m going to sent them into the clerks with a proposed plan, and they should be good to go before the drop dead date, when the sole person who can do the final signoff gets on the plane. That should be enough time. Of course, part of the hold up was that some documents were missing and no one bothered to tell me that there was a file in the Orderly Room where they were also collecting outstanding items. A good chunk of the stuff we were waiting for was there.

My other trick is the collection of another, unrelated document. By its nature, it’s got to be handled in a specific manner, and that’s complicating things a bit. I’m done 90% of them now too, but the last few were on a memory stick that belongs to someone else, and now I’m trying to get it back from that person who’s been off on training. Should be sorted tomorrow, but it’s annoying. And normally, it’s not even the S1’s responsibility – “we” just “volunteered” because the Ops guys who normally responsible for it are working like rented mules right now trying to sort out the last of the training requirements.

Friday at 4pm I’m out of here. Friday. 4pm. The Barrack Warden will come by, make sure I cleaned my room, and kick me out. And it’ll be back to Halifax. With a stop at St-Hubert in Moncton for dinner – because I haven’t had it in a long time and it sounds really, really good. Serenity Now.

It’s not done yet, of course – so much to do. I started packing today. Problem is that I basically have the luggage I can take overseas here with me – but a lot more stuff than I will be taking and I have to try to fit it all in. I’m going to have to ask my wife to bring an extra bag with her when to finish packing. I have a system set up though – I’m trying to pack my carry on back exactly as it will be when I go (Less my Kindles. Yes, Kindles, plural. I have two.) and leave it as it. The amount of stuff that has to go in there is rather ridiculous. I was thinking I’d put my laptop in there. But it’s not going to fit, I don’t think. It’ll go in my barrack box.

I think it’ll all fit just fine – though it takes some planning. The key thing I have to take into account is that my battle rattle has to go in a duffel bag, and be packed in such a way as to ensure that when I get off the plane, I can get to it immediately and be able to throw it on for the ride to our first stop. Everything else I cram in that bag (clothes, most likely) has to go underneath my PPE so it comes out quick and easy.

I can’t tell you when I leave, exactly. Nor can I tell you how we’re getting there. I can tell you it’s going to take a long, long time traveling and that I don’t sleep well on planes so I plan to overdose on something that will knock me out until we get there. On arrival in Kabul we are heading to something of a reception centre where we’ll clear into ISAF/NTM-A and get our bearings before getting dispersed out to our actual “hometowns”. I’m not actually even sure I can say much about where, specifically, I’m going. You’ll have to forgive me for erring on the side of caution. However, I’ve got public affairs as one of my secondary duties, and I’ve already started asking about things like a social media strategy, and maybe that’ll change the way I go about this blog. ISAF does have a presence (@ISAFMedia), and they actually spar routinely with a couple of Taliban propaganda Twitter accounts. I swear, I’m not making that up. Check it out. The Taliban are @alemarahweb, and also @abalkhi. At the rate of casualties they claim, they would have had to have killed probably every single Canadian ever deployed there. It verges on the ridiculous – but the actual personal jabs are what are priceless, when they happen. In fact, it’s happening right now. See here, Taliban claims a great victory. ISAF mocks them here. Taliban jabs back here. ISAF’s telling the truth, of course. The Taliban would claim earthquakes were their doing without thinking anything of it. Welcome to modern war, ladies and gentlemen.

There’s actually a couple of guys “over there” whose job is solely to monitor social media to make sure there’s no OPSEC violations. And there have been some pretty insane ones. Some inadvertent, and some so categorically stupid I cannot believe that they happened. One of the things they just made a point of telling people about is geotagging in photos. Lots of people take pictures with smartphones blissfully unaware that the phones use their GPS to encode where exactly the photo was taken. I learned about this a few years ago after realizing I’d tweeted pictures of my home. The geotags would have made it exceptionally easy to find. I have, obviously, disabled that function on my iPhone, and most pictures you’ll see on here will come from a non-GPS equipped camera, so there’s no risk there. Why, as they said, do the enemy’s recce for him? I don’t plan to, so you’ll have to forgive any time I’m intentionally vague.

Anyhow, I can’t believe that work up is coming to an end – that I can see, as it were, the end of the tunnel. There’s a stack of DAG files between me and that end, but it’s dwindling.

Friday. 4pm. My own bed. Home cooked meals – my wife is a staggeringly awesome cook, you see. A few weeks to chase down some last minute admin and relax – I go on leave almost as soon as I get home.

A little housekeeping, by the way. I’m starting to build up some links on the sidebar for you. I’m also going to do up a “suggested reading list” for those interested in this blogs – books I’ve read and thought were of value. I’ll probably get that done during my leave.

 

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