Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Brown Sand Sailor Prepares To ...uh, Sail?

Our Naval Attache to Iraq reports in:

Hey everybody, greetings from sunny (and hot!) Carolina pine country. Finally got a touch of a breather, so I thought I’d send out a second update.When I last left you I was in cold and rainy Norfolk pondering the next stage of my journey. Well, it is aweek and a half later and it feels like a month. Where to begin? Camp McCready (which is inside Fort Jackson) is a little place, with some administrative buildings and barracks, etc., and not much else but training grounds. We arrived last Sunday afternoon and were greeted by an open bay metal bunk bed barracks, of the sort I’m sure John is familiar with. That was a tough first night, as the realization sunk in that things were getting serious. Starting with physical training (PT) at 0500 the following morning, the pace was hectic, with every hour filled and everyone exhausted by the evening. About a third of the 200+ sailors here for this two-week class are reservists, the rest are active duty, and they are mostly Master of Arms rated, i.e. they are cops or security people. The whole purpose of the Navy augmentees going to Fort Jackson seems to be to help out the Army in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait, as they are tight on people allowed to deploy (it all goes back to the rule that no one should deploy more than twice in five years). Basically it is a sharing of the burden, as the Navy has not been stressed at all by the campaigns in CENTCOM. In fact, the rumor is that the program is expanding (we are only the eighth Navy class topass through this training) and that ultimately the Navy will field Naval Infantry Battalions that are not Marines (something not done since at least World WarII, and in some ways not since 1918).There is an element of self-interest among Big Navy for this decision to jump into ground operations, as it makes the Navy look better in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill (which translates into budget $), but it also seems to be a genuine wish to help out the Army and contribute our fair share. Certainly that is the impression I’ve gotten from taking with drill sergeants and some of the Navy personnel assigned here. The view from the deckplates is much morecynical and grumpy, of course, with sailors complaining about the heavy armor, the marching, the strange “Army ways” and the inability of soldiers to understand how to keep a barracks ship-shape. In someways that’s ok though, as there’s an old saying that acomplaining sailor is a happy sailor, its? whenthey’re quiet that trouble is brewing. [EDITOR – “This is mutiny, Mr. Christian!”]Actually, both sides learn from the other. Some examples; First, everyone understands that sailors can’t march right? No use for it on ships, so what’s the point? Well, that is an unusual thing to drill sergeants who, while being awfully nice to us (as we have commanders and even a captain in the program) are often exasperated. There are lots of commands like, “No, the other left! I said left! Ok, port!”or “The latrines, I mean heads, are over there behind those trees. You know what trees are right?” The funniest example took place when Staff Sergeant Keawas yelling at us over the tendency of all the maneuvers to take longer that they should, whether getting on a bus, going to get chow or just marchingfrom A to B. After two days of politely asking us to change our sailorly ways (i.e. give a sailor an inch, he’ll take a nautical mile, etc.), he finally said "Look, after PT tomorrow morning, you’ll get chow, and then weapons unlock at 0815, with a muster at 0830. And the bus is leaving for Fort Jackson at 0845. Let me say that again, the bus is fucking leaving at 0845! You tracking?”All the platoons loved it, of course. Cursing at us, well that’s something sailors understand that someone is serious. This was greeted by better behavior overall and widespread noises of appreciation forSergeant Kea, including whispers of “I’d work for that guy anywhere, he’d make a great Chief!"
To sum up, I’ll just say that living and working here has been like drinking from a fire hose. In just a week, we received M-16s and 9mm pistols, conducted firing position and computer based M-16 marksmanship training, took an NBC gas mask course, heavy weapons training (.50-cal., Mk.19, SAW mg), qualified on theM-16 at the range, took courses on first aid, land navigation, convoys and radio communications and endedup today blasting off ten or so thousand rounds of machine gun bullets at the heavy weapons range. Laterin the week we’ll do convoy ops and urban room-clearing training before finishing up and flying offto the other side of the world.

Fair winds and following sands!


Blogger Saoirse said...

"I’ll just say that living and working here has been like drinking from a fire hose."

Ouch!! Our Sand Sailor had some of these same issues. He really had trouble with the 16 mile excursions. Walk? How far?

Major could you please give this man our info at SA? Mine or R's. Or the website. If there is anything we can do for them {if he knows some sailors without mail or family to support them, whatever.} when they deploy, or before. We would be honored!

Go Navy!!

7:19 AM  

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