Altough this is a couple of days late, I wanted to let everyone know how the 3 days in the field went.
Before I get started, I want to make sure that everyone knows that I specifically write these notes so they can be shared with anyone you want. I have already made them specifically vague so that they don't release any information that can be used to target our troops, based on movements, tactics, techniques, or procedures that I talk about.
In mid-afternoon of the chosen day, we loaded buses to ride out to the range. It was about 140 deg F, and when you put 60 soldiers or so on a bus with all their gear, it only gets hotter. The buses had the A/C running full blast, but I am not sure it made any difference. As the senior person on my bus, I was sitting up front (in the jump seat), with the sun blazing in through the windshield, so it certainly wasn't any cooler for me. I drank about 2 liters of gatorade during the 1-hour trip, but I was sweating so much that I still didn't have to pee when we arrived.
The training site is arranged in an interesting fashion. The tents are used for both classes and sleeping areas. All the gear was laid down outside the tent, and we all filed inside the air-conditioned tent for classes. We had classes for a couple of hours (on convoy procedures and IEDs), and then were sent outside for a break and to eat our dinner (MREs). Afterwards it was time to stack all the chairs in the classroom and bring in sleeping bags (and only sleeping mats and sleeping bags) because it was time to go to bed. Wake up would be at 0230.
I find it very awkward to go outside into 140 deg F heat (about 130 deg F in the shade) to eat and drink (because we aren't allowed to eat in the tents), and then go back inside and start freezing because all your clothing is soaked with sweat and they want to keep the tents pretty cool. I was glad I had my sleeping bag or I would have gotten very cold during the night (because the A/C is never turned off).
0230 was wake up, with breakfast (if you could eat anything at that time) and then a march out to the range about 0330. After some fiddling around and the retired-NCO-instructors trying to get everyone organized into the right sized groups (in the dark) we moved off with group instructors for the "Close Quarters Marksmanship" instruction.
CQM was really cool! We learned about proper wear of the body armour and the right shooting/moving stances to use so the body armour provides maximum protection. We learned about shooting on the move and how to change our aimpoints for shooting at distances between 4 meters and 20 meters. Yes... 4 meters. Some of our targets might only be 12 feet away and you need to understand how to put a bullet about an inch below the clavicle (centered on the chest) so "Ahkmed" goes down from a single shot (and doesn't get back up). This was done with 9mm pistols, M16 rifles, and M4 rifles. It was great fun! We had to learn how to turn and shoot, and how to be in a file and all shoot at a target about the 1 o'clock position, even though the barrel of my rifle or pistol was only inches from the shoulder of the guy in front of me.
We did all this training very early, so that we might get done before the sun really starts to heat things up, especially since we were all wearing body armour, ballistic helmets, and ballistic eye protection. After CQM, we returned to the classrooms for more training on IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs, and other threats we might encounter during convoys. We learned proper convoy procedures, proper targeting procedures, and proper procedures for "escalation of force" and when to use deadly force.
In the mid-afternoon, we drew vehicles and went out to practice all the convoy procedures we had been learning. It was hot, and if I thought I was sweating a lot before, I was wrong. Sitting in my body armour, inside an "up-armoured" HMMWV, in the afternoon is even hotter. "Up-armoured" means that additional layers of armour have been added to a vehicle, including plates of bullet-proof glass and solid doors. Kind of like your oven...
Although we hadn't completed practicing all the scenarios, we had to return when it got dark. So we gladly returned around 1930, ate dinner, stacked the chairs, and tumbled into bed. Since we needed to practice some more, we would be up long before first light, eating breakfast, checking vehicles and weapons, and getting ready to roll...
0300: Wake-up, followed by breakfast and packing all your bags and making sure they are loaded on the truck since we aren't coming back here.
0430: The convoy rolls out and we go back to continue practicing what we didn't get done the evening before. We notice that not all the other convoys are rolling out. I guess some of them got all the practice done.
0800: Practice is over, it is time to run down the "rehearsal lane" and get tested on the things we have been learning and practicing. Wow! A few of the things (in the scenarios on the lane) we did really well on, and some of them were really awful. *I* think we need a lot more practice. The instructor says we didn't do too bad, but I thought that too many people were confused on the procedures and too many people would have died or been injured had it been real. The instructors (and most of the soldiers) all think I am too much of a perfectionist and too anal-retentive! ( Gee... could that be true? *grin* )
1200-ish: After the review of our performance on the rehearsal lane we do aonther weapons check because this time we will be using live ammunition. The convoy rolls out the gate and over to the special live fire lane. We start rolling down the lane, with my vehicle's gunner letting the bullets fly at enemy insurgents (targets) all identified as holding weapons. Suddenly over the radio the convoy commander tells me to "Cease Fire!" because 'we should only be simulating fire until we pass checkpoint 3!'
I think to myself "What??? We passed CP3 about 1000 meters back...", so I ask for a clarification. When the same answer comes back, I realize that not only is the convoy commander confused, but I was apparently the only vehicle firing... (sigh) I give a "Roger" and we quit firing. So the convoy rolls along ... absolutely dead quiet. Suddenly the radio erupts with the instructor wondering "Why in the *$#@* aren't we firing? What are we stupid or don't we understand that this is a live fire range? Go back to the beginning and let's conduct this range properly! "
So, with me trying to keep the amused grin off my face, we started over and conducted the range with every vehicle gunner properly engaging targets while moving, and then went to clean the vehicles and turn them in, before loading the buses to return to camp. We arrive late in the afternoon, with just enough time for a quick shower before dinner. What a long day.
Oh, by this point I am starting to become used to the appendage attached to my right thigh. I am assigned a 9mm pistol, and use a thigh holster for it. I have been wearing it every day since we left Fort Hood, and now after sleeping with it every night, I am starting to become used to its presence. We were issued live ammunition on our 2nd day (before our adventure near the Saudi border) and have been carrying live ammo ever since. I am also getting used to the fact that every soldier also now carries multiple magazines of live ammunition. The only place I don't take my weapon and ammo has been the shower.
Tonight we were given a correction to our mailing address. My corrected mailing address is:
LTC Peter C Barclay
APO, AE 09391
Tomorrow: my trip north into Iraq
Peter / Terafan