Thursday, July 20, 2006
The following is the fourth in a series of letters home from my nephew Keith. I am publishing them so that we may all have a better understanding of the young men and women who are placing themselves in harms way to protect us, and our way of life. They have been following him through his training, and will continue into his deployment. I do so with his permission, and the concurrence of his wife and son.
S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and ten members of his MP unit have been called up for deployment to Afghanistan to train new Afghani police officers. All eleven are either police or corrections officers. The unit is presently departing from a base in the Southwest, where they have been training with a Navy unit before shipping out. This letter will be the final correspondence detailing his training experiences. After a short leave, he will transit to Afghanistan for his deployment. There will be a gap in this series during his transition, but will continue after he is established at his assigned location. I am withholding his last name out of courtesy to his family and simply thank him for his service to our country.
Hello All, July 16, 2006
Well, the end of the training cycle has finally arrived. We concluded our training on Friday, July 14th and also found out that we are getting a week of leave prior to deployment. All in all I would say that it was a good day.
Our final training tasks were CQM, Close Quarters Marksmanship and Urban Operations. We had been told by others who had been through the training that it was enjoyable and that the instructors were professional, and they were not mistaken. The CQM training took place out at a range about 30 miles from where we are housed. There are two ways to get to the training area. One is to take the highways which is not the most direct route and can take you 45 minutes to an hour. The other way, the way we chose of course, was to take a tank trail that cuts through the desert and shortens the trip by about 15 minutes. A tank trail is nothing more that a 30 foot wide gravel road that is all chewed up by the tracks on the tanks. Now imagine riding down this trail at 45 mph in an 11 passenger Dodge van. The ride was bone jarring to say the least, but we did have fun with it.
When we arrived out at the training area on Day 1, we were given a brief class on marksmanship techniques that included standing, kneeling, and aggressing the target. (Walking towards it in other words.) These techniques are different from the normal qualification course where you shoot from either the foxhole or prone position. After the class it was time to do some shooting and it was fun. These instructors were able to put over 100 soldiers through the range in about 3 hours. This was quite different from the Rifle Qualification Range and 9MM Range that took all day long. The difference, I believe, being that those ranges were run by civilian contractors and the CQM range was run by Army personnel.
After the range we were given a class and demonstration of the Army’s method for room and building clearing. Then we were broken down into groups. Our Commander was able to talk to the instructors and have all of us put into a group of our own. Since our training began we have been split up and have not had the opportunity to train together. We were then released for the day and we took the tank trail back.
On Day 2 we hit the tank trail early in the morning and headed out to the range. The range area, which is located at the base of some mountains, consisted of a small village containing several small building and one large compound type building. The day started off with us practicing the room clearing techniques in “glass houses”. These are houses made of stakes and engineer tape that simulate rooms and doorways. We practiced in these for several hours before we moved to the actual “village”. We again practiced in the “village” before we were given blank ammunition. On this go around the “village” was full of role players who shot at us or just got in the way. The training went well and I enjoyed it very much, despite the 100 plus degree temperatures.
The next rotation was to develop a plan on our own and assault the compound building. We developed our plan and off we went down range to secure and search the compound. Before we even reached the compound we came under “mortar” attack and sniper fire. Our plan worked well and we didn’t sustain any “casualties” during the training. When we were done for the day our instructor was very complimentary of our performance. I was very pleased with our training because it also gave us the chance to grow as a team.
The next portion of our training was the Urban Operations task. This is another exercise that is meant to bring all of the previous training together into one large scale mission. That mission is to cordon off an entire village and conduct building searches looking for weapons, ammunition and HVTs, or High Value Targets. The mission requires a company sized element. One platoon sends out Observation Teams to collect intelligence. Then the rest of the platoon moves into position to secure the routes in and out of the village. The other platoons make up the search teams, the casualty collection point, and the detention area. I was assigned to one of the observation points. We positioned ourselves on a 20 foot high berm about 100 meters northeast of the “village” and watched for anything unusual. Then once the search teams moved in we had the best seats in the house to watch the show, and what a show it was. The “village” consisted of approximately 20 buildings, and over 50 role players. Anything you can think of that these role players could do to make things difficult on the troops, they did. It was a good 2 days of training and each operation into the village showed the improvement of the entire element.
At the end of the day we took part in our final AAR, or After Action Review. The Army has an AAR after every training exercise to discuss what happened and how the training could be better. Now in theory, this is a good concept, but after a long day in the hot sun all you want to do is take off the 50 pounds of gear and hit the showers. But we made it through the last one without any problems, even though the instructor leading the AAR broke the all-time HOOAH record.
Well it’s time to put this thing to rest. My next update won’t come until after I return from some leave. When I get back here we will have 7 days before we deploy to Afghanistan. I look forward to seeing all of you when I get home.
Love and miss you all
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
The ongoing Israeli response to the continual attacks by Hezbollah has caused the left wing apologists in the United States and the anti-Semitic leadership and media in Europe to demand a cease fire by Israel, while claiming that the Israeli response is “disproportionate”. Forgotten is the fact that Israel, at the request of the United Nations, withdrew from the buffer zone in southern Lebanon, while the UN did nothing to stop Hezbollah from moving into the area, effectively taking control of southern Lebanon. The United Nations, European Union, and other enablers did nothing to implement the UN resolution demanding that Hezbollah disarm. No one took any action to stop Syria from importing Iranian weapons, and then shipping them to Hezbollah. They couldn’t even bring themselves to criticize Hezbollah for six years of firing almost daily rocket attacks into civilian areas of Israel. The upshot is that Israel has decided to clean out the rats nest on their own, after the recent significant increase in deadly attacks by the terrorists in this noxious organization.
If we, as Americans, had any sense of loyalty to our own dead and crippled, we would be cheering Israel for taking this long overdue action, while offering any assistance they may request. Regardless of your feelings about any other policy or position taken by Israel, and whether or not you agree with the U.S government’s ongoing support of Israel, this particular action should instill a feeling of gratitude by us toward Israel. And if you have to ask why, then you have forgotten, like many other Americans, who it is that is being targeted by the Israeli armed forces. Allow me to remind you.
April 18, 1983 – Hezbollah terrorists bombed the United States Embassy in Beirut. Sixty three people were murdered, including 17 Americans, and hundreds wounded or crippled. May I point out that an Embassy is the sovereign territory of the nation it represents. Therefore, attacking an embassy is an act of war.
October 23, 1983 – The United States Marine barracks in Beirut was bombed by Hezbollah. Two hundred and twenty Marines, eighteen Naval personnel, and three Army soldiers were murdered that day, and another 60 were wounded or crippled.
June 25, 1996 – The Khobar Towers residence, housing United States military personnel in Saudi Arabia, was bombed by Hezbollah. Nineteen Air Force personnel were murdered, and three hundred and seventy two were wounded or crippled.
Hezbollah has also been implicated in the targeted murders of other Americans in the Middle East. If they were a nation, we would have every right to declare war on them. However, we follow the rule of law, while Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations do not. We must understand that Hezbollah is to Lebanon what Al-Qaida was to Afghanistan. They have suborned the government, intimidated the Lebanese populace and military, and have been the de-facto rulers of southern Lebanon for six years. That they are a threat to Israel should be obvious. That they are also a threat to America has been forgotten.
Those who say this is not our fight, and Israel should show “restraint”, have a severe case of selective memory. Hezbollah has murdered no less than two hundred and seventy- seven Americans, and wounded or crippled more than four hundred and thirty others. It seems to me that Israel is doing what we should have done twenty-three years ago. Instead of condemnation, we should be sending the Israeli Defense Forces Thank-You cards.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
The following is the third in a series of letters home from my nephew Keith. I am publishing them so that we may all have a better understanding of the young men and women who are placing themselves in harms way to protect us, and our way of life. They will follow him through the remainder of his training, and into his deployment. I do so with his permission, and the concurrence of his wife and son.
S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and 10 members of his MP unit have been called up for deployment to Afghanistan to train new Afghani police officers. All eleven are either police or corrections officers. The unit is presently at a base in the Southwest, training with a Navy unit before shipping out. This series are his letters home detailing his training experiences, and will continue through his deployment. I am withholding his last name out of courtesy to his family and simply thank him for his service to our country
July 8, 2006
Well, another training task has come to an end, which means we are that much closer to completing our training. We spent the last several days encountering the ECP/FOB, Entry Control Point/Forward Operating Base lane. This training is, to an extent, meant to bring all of the previous training tasks together in one large scale live fire exercise. The first day was spent covering some classes, death by power point as I like to call it. Then we went out to the training range and did a walk through of all the different rotations we would have to man for the next 2 days. The first station was controlling the entrance to the ECP, which included tasks such as vehicle and personnel search, and providing the manpower to properly protect the FOB should it come under attack, which of course it will since that is the whole point of the range.
The second station was the CCP, or Casualty Collection Point. The job of the CCP is to respond to anywhere in the ECP area and recover casualties, quickly access their injuries and apply life saving measures. Then you place the injured soldiers on a litter and carry them back to the CCP where they receive more care while awaiting the arrival of a simulated MEDEVAC. The next station was the QRF, or Quick Reaction Force. This is an element that is mounted in Humvees and responds to the main wall of the ECP and assist in repelling any attacks. The fourth and final station is the Reserve Force. These are the troops that are not manning any of the other stations and are called upon to assist any of the previously mentioned stations should they become overwhelmed. Considering this is training there shouldn’t be any doubt that this would certainly occur. As I said earlier, this training is meant to marry all the previous training. The only problem was that the unit that we were attached to had not yet received that training. Another problem was that the unit is a Head Quarters Unit. That means “paper pushers”, supply personnel, cooks, and the like. Not that I have anything against the soldiers who perform these duties; after all we are all infantry first and foremost, but lets be honest. Also they were very “rank heavy”, lots of higher ranking NCOs and Officers.
We were split into 4 platoons and luckily the 11 of us were able to stay together, something that has been rare during our training. On day 2 our first task was to man the CCP for this blank fire exercise. Everybody took their positions, the ECP was opened and the fun began. After the main gate dealt with some role players, explosives were detonated to simulate a VBIED, or Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device attack. After that, more explosives to simulate RPG and Indirect Fire, followed by the appearance of targets down range and the “fight” was on. It wasn’t long before the calls poured into the CCP for litter teams down range. The “fight” lasted approximately an hour and we had to recover 16 casualties with only 3 litter teams. Needless to say, we were exhausted.
Our next assignment was to man the ECP itself; and I was assigned, once again as RTO. Apparently the HQ Unit found out I was a cop and decided to again exploit my radio skills. This of course was fine by me because only the RTO and Commander don’t have to hit the ground when the explosions start; we are allowed to stay up on one knee. Doesn’t sound like a big perk, but when you’re wearing all that gear, having just carried 6 litter patients, and are 41 years old, believe me, it’s a perk. Our scenario began much like the first, but we came under a mortar attack to kick off the “fight”. The instructors quickly made the Commander a casualty leaving me to deal with a soft spoken Lieutenant, not the best combination during a fire fight, simulated or not. This is when I finally realized that this training was more about leadership than anything else. This will become clearer shortly, so stay tuned.
Our next stop was the Reserve Area where we spent about 20 minutes before being called up into the “fight”. The higher-ups had discovered that things went much smoother when they called for reserves as soon as the shooting started. I luckily was not sent forward and was able to eat a quick meal before our next rotation. Our final stop was the QRF, but since there were too many of us and not enough seats in the Humvees, the extras went to the ASP, Ammo Supply Point and aided in keeping the ammo flowing forward. By the time the training day was over we had gone through 20,000 rounds of ammunition and I had not fired a shot.
On day 3 we were to repeat the actions from day 2, only do it better and with live ammunition. The cycle of rotations was to stay the same, with us going from CCP to ECP to Reserve and ending with QRF. I was assigned as the Commander’s full-time RTO. The CCP ran very smooth and much better than day 2. Then we moved to the ECP where the instructor again “killed” the Commander. About 20 minutes later the same instructor told me to stop doing the Lieutenants job for him or he would “kill” me too. Five minutes later, I was “dead”. Next it was to the Reserve area where I again acted as the Commanders RTO and therefore didn’t have to respond forward into the “fight”. Our final assignment was the QRF. Finally the instructor didn’t “kill” the Commander, but he “killed” me as soon as I got out of the Humvee. See what I mean about this exercise being more geared towards the leadership.
All in all it was good training that demanded a lot, both mentally and physically. The days were long, going from 4AM, until after 8PM each day, so we were all glad when it came to a conclusion. The next and final 6 days of our training will cover CQM, Close Quarters Marksmanship, and Urban Operations, which promises to be fun. I will send another update when we complete those tasks.
I look forward to seeing you all soon. Hopefully we will get some leave once we have completed our training and before we deploy to Afghanistan.
I love and miss you all
Monday, July 03, 2006
S/SGT Keith is an army veteran and civilian police officer who joined
the active reserves after the September 11th attacks. He and 10 members
of his MP unit have been activated for deployment to Afghanistan to
train new Afghani police officers. The unit is presently at a base in
the Southwest, training with a Navy unit before shipping out. The
series will be his letters home detailing his training experiences, and
continuing through his deployment. We withhold his last name out of
courtesy to his family and thank him for his service to our country.
July 3, 2006
I can’t remember when I last sent you all an update, so I will cover the last 10 training days and that should be plenty of info.
We started our final phase of training and started off with TCP, or Traffic Control Point Operations. The purpose of a TCP is to, obviously, control traffic, but it is used more as a check point. The task was to establish this check point and control the flow of contraband in and out of not only our check point, but also the nearby village that was populated with role players. The training lasted for 3 days with the last day consisting of a practical exercise. From the moment we established the check point the scenarios started. I was assigned as the NCO in charge of the entry point nearest the village, and I loved it. It gave me a chance to use my brain, which the Army doesn’t always allow you to do. It was our mission to handle the “villagers” as they approached asking for assistance, taking photographs, trying to steal our supplies, and smuggle weapons or explosives through our point. Luckily, we were able to stop the influx of all contraband, much to the dismay of our instructors. Finally, they “killed” me by sniper fire in an attempt to disrupt our operation, but it didn’t work. Another member of our detachment, who is also a cop, took over and we moved right along.
At the conclusion of our training the instructors advised us that they had been trying to “kill” us all day long, but we weren’t giving them the opportunity. All in all it was good training and I enjoyed it very much. I especially enjoyed the chance to interact with the role players and have to think on my feet and adapt to the situation.
Immediately following the TCP training we moved into Convoy Operations which is, at minimum a 7 day cycle. As with all training we started off in the classroom before moving out in the desert to put the “battle drills” into action. Covered in the class were such things as, respond to small arms fire, road blocks, recovering downed vehicles, recovering personnel, communications, and of course, respond to IEDs. We spent the next 2 days practicing these drills before moving to the practical exercise. During the exercise we were presented with 9 scenarios while traversing an 8 mile course. Needless to say, the fun never stopped. Again, we all really enjoyed this training, and lets face it, this is an important training topic. I believe that approximately 85% of the casualties in Iraq are due to IEDs and Convoy Ops. Good thing that we’re going to Afghanistan.
After 3 days of that we moved into the live fire phase of Convoy Ops. The Army sure has changed, not too long ago the Army never would of thought of letting soldiers train and move under live fire. This cycle was to last 4 days, with the final 3 days spent on the live fire range. This again, was some very good training. I was assigned as the radio operator after the company we were attending the training with learned that I was a cop. We then spent 3 days moving up and down the live fire range executing the battle drill we had learned while the gunners in the Humvee turrets laid down massive amounts of suppressive fire.
On the final day the instructors decided to make me a casualty. The guys were so busy asking me what reports to send up on the radio, even though I was “unconscious”, that they forgot to put me of the Medevac. I told them afterwards that if that really happens my wife will initiate a full investigation into what went on and they’ll all end up on CNN.
Today, July 3rd, we spent the morning cleaning our weapons and the vehicles that we used. Then in the afternoon we moved under cover of completely unauthorized civilian clothes to the hotel of our Unit Manager. Once we arrived at the pool he treated us to grilled streaks, chicken, brats, and burgers. Who says Officers are no fun!?
As of today I believe that we have 10 training days left. After that comes validation for deployment, and hopefully a pass or some leave. I will keep you all posted on those developments as the become more clear.
Well that is all for now and I will send another e-mail when I get the chance. Personally I would rather train everyday so that I can move onto the next portion of this deployment. As you all are aware this time spent training doesn’t count towards the year that we have to do in theater. I love and miss all of you terribly, and can’t wait till I get the chance to see all of you. Also, I continue to be moved beyond words by the support shown to my family. When I get home, the drinks are on me!
Love and miss you all.