Sunday, May 24, 2009
From a leader's perspective, one of the nice things about counter-insurgency operations is the flexibility to approach the problem in various ways, although everything pretty much boils down to engaging the enemy or engaging the populace. How we do either of these two things is up to us. On the kinetic side we might conduct ambushes, movements to contact, security presence patrols, cache sweeps, vehicle checkpoints, or cordon and searches. When it comes to engaging the populace we often conduct MedCaps (medical civil affairs program) and key leader engagements.
So today we (the ETTs and ANA) did a joint operation with the US Army. Basically, the plan was for the Army to head out before sunrise and set up on the rigdelines. We would then bring in our ANA later on in the morning and "engage the populace". When we're going in to the more volatile areas, "engaging the populace" often means we'll serve as "bait". But they can't phrase it that way when selling us on the op, so they'll call it "engaging the populace" and away we go. A nice bit of salesmanship in their part. We laughingly refer to our role in this type of operation as "hey diddle-diddle right up the middle".
With so many of our personnel on leave at the moment, I ended up being the driver of the MRAP since our other licensed drivers were unavailable. An MRAP is a very large armored vehicle that is gradually replacing the venerable humvee because it provides such better protection from IEDs. I've read MRAPs described as "mastodon-like" which is a very apt description. The vehicle is pretty capable, although so large that it just barely fit down some of the roads. I managed to severely sprain my wrist when the steering wheel whipped back and did a couple of revolutions as the back right tire was stuck on a rock and the front left was in a little ditch. The wrist sprain prevented me from taking part in much of the action later since I couldn't really use that hand at all, and still hardly can as of this writing. At any rate, once the pains subsides some I'll be motivated to use my handy (no pun intended) DynaFlex Pro Plus gyro, which is a fun little device to build up strength and stamina in your hands, wrists, and forearms. I'm reminded now how a sprain of any kind makes daily living a teeth-grinding experience.
The area where we went had been the subject of a "treaty" between the Coalition forces and the local elders. The treaty saying something to the effect that we'll start helping them out with projects if they'll stop shooting at us when we show up. This was our first trip out there since the onset of the treaty, and sadly, the treaty did not hold up and we were engaged in the typical manner from several machine gun positions on the ridgelines. The event was certainly not unexpected, but it was disappointing all the same. The firefight had all the hallmarks of what I've gotten used to out here: ANA shooting machine guns from the hip, the Army using anti-tank weapons to shoot at individuals, aerial ordnance dropping after the fight has stopped, and arty crashing down. In the end, we all (us and them) went home to do it again in the near future.