Saturday, June 6, 2009

What is an ETT anyway?

"The task must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires the noble-hearted"  - Kierkegaard

ETT stands for Embedded Training Team. We refer to the members of the team as ETTs. As for what we are…well, we’re generalists. We come from a variety of MOS's (military occupational specialties). As far as I know the job is open to any MOS, though the team leader has to have a combat arms MOS. As ETTs we have to have wide variety skills. One needs to be able to troubleshoot a .50 cal machine gun as well as have the cultural sensitivity to communicate with local elders in such a way as to not piss them off. An ETT needs to have the savvy to negotiate reasonable prices from local contractors on construction projects as well as know what pieces of information are believable or should be discarded.

A good ETT needs to be an infantryman, operations officer, diplomat, civil affairs professional, engineer, intelligence analyst, supply officer, mechanic, linguist, and communications specialist all rolled into one. Of course, we have specialists to help us in many of these skill sets, but at any given time we have to: troubleshoot communication systems; design and improve the force protection measures at the base; negotiate and supervise construction projects; maintain generators and vehicles; mediate disputes between the US Army and the ANA; and conduct meetings with local groups, in addition to the normal everyday patrolling requiring infantry skills, which are without a doubt the most skills to have in this environment.

Other helpful skills: the ability to eat rice with your hands (Pack it into a little ball and then use your thumb to shovel it into your mouth.); the patience to talk for two hours about business and yet accomplish nothing; the ability to refuse to help without alienating; the stomach to take food and drink that might not be prepared according to what you’re used to and may be covered with flies; and the fortitude to deal with the same issues and problems week after week and day after day.  Having a bad day is not allowed, and if you do not care for or believe in someone or something, you'd better have the maturity to fake it.

The days are not super busy - the ANA don’t tend to want to work with us for a lot of hours during a given day. But there’s always something going on, so as an ETT you don’t often have a lot of time to yourself. The day’s patrol may be finished before lunch, but then you have lunch with the Afghan commander, followed by supervisory tasks on construction projects, coordination meetings with the Army, communications with our own bosses, normal cleaning and maintenance of our gear, more meetings with the Afghans, etc. The day may start at 0530 and not end until 2100, but we’re not busy that whole time. Plenty of 30-minute periods of freedom are interspersed in there. Put a couple of those free periods together and you get an entry like this.


Anonymous said...

How interesting to see how diverse the ETT position is! What's your favorite part of your job?

SA said...

Favorite part...probably the interaction with the Afghans, though that part is also the most frustrating aspect of the job.

Anonymous said...

Nice, thanks for the in depth description of the job requirements!

gail said...

my son is a navy corpman attatached to the marines. he is supposed to go to afghanistan with a group of ett marines. after reading your blog, it sounds like a perfect spot for him. he was raised with diverse culturals. from his mom, it's pure redneck, his g-pa was chinese and his step father is from iran. after my first concern for him going to afghanistan or any where that there is going to be fighting, i have actually gotten excited for him and this experience. thanks for the data on etts

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this information. My fourth grade students are writing to a captain in the 201st ETT, and now I can explain to them what he is doing. I am amazed by the diversity of skills you need to do your job! Thank you for all that you do.

Unknown said...

And medical boss. Don't forget us Corpsmen. Being a part of an ETT was the most rewarding part of my career. As a Corpsman, lead medical for my team(ETT 2-5), I had to be well versed in weapons(US and enemy), communications, training, tactics, safety, patroling(foot and mounted), culture, history and more. No day was ever the same. Some fast paced, some absolutely boring. Another mission that is often not discussed is the ABP(Afghan Border Police) mission. I pray all your sons come home. By the grace of God, all mine made it home safely. God Bless our Marines and Sailors, past and present.

ETT 2-5, 2007-2008