Sunday, September 20, 2009

A training vignette

We're in the midst of our final training, a multi-day exercise that involves 24-hour operations. People are getting tired, and I'm hearing more and more of the Soldiers counting down how many days we have left until we get out of here.

I'm trying just to take things one moment at a time. Today when I heard someone mention how many days are left I was surprised, because it's a small number and I've been deliberately trying not to take on more than just what's in front of me at the moment.

Our Staff worked incredibly diligently on the final orders for this exercise, only to be told the day before the exercise was to start that significant changes had been directed by echelons above reality. Talk about pressure!

The Battalion Staff functioned brilliantly, and I heard one of the Company Commanders say, as he was briefing his Officers and senior NCOs, "the Battalion Staff did such a good job on this OPORD (operations order), that everything we need is spelled out in detail, so all we have to do is implement it." Not bad at all!

Because a significant number of our Soldiers were going to go back to Summer Camp - The Haunting and perform what seemed the be the most important -- and possibly dangerous -- part of the Operation, I arranged to go down there with them.

Prior to the start of their piece of the action, I was supposed to meet with someone from the "town" on Friday to 'establish a relationship' with that person. Then, on Saturday, once the action started, I could knock on the door and inform the person about what was going on, and why it was in the best interest of peace and security and that sort of thing.

Since the person is influential, it was hoped that this kind of personal interaction could help in the overall effort to maintain calm.

Looked good on paper, and right up my alley, so I requested the requisite meeting on Wednesday when I learned of my role. I requested the meeting on Thursday. I requested the meeting on Friday.

The meeting never took place because the people running our training (the same outfit as those at Summer Camp - South, as it turns out) never scheduled it. This was a big piece of the Operation, as it turns out, and it never got planned by the people who oversee the training (they hire locals to play-act, and no one had been hired, evidently).

I went down to Summer Camp - South, anyway. We spent the night, and in the wee hours of the morning I was up to visit with Soldiers and pray with them if they wished.

The Operation was supposed to start by an indicated time, but my guys had everything good to go 15 minutes before the "not-later-than (NLT)" time.

As it turned out, however, the actors and directors of this training must have figured that the start time didn't apply to them or something, because a lot of them showed up on post after troops had been posted at intersections, screening the traffic attempting to go past.

They turned people away, which was their assignment.

Those people were supposed to be on "the other side" in this situation, which was their assignment, but couldn't take their places.

One person, in particular, was pretty hot about not being let on post. "But I'm one of your Trainers!" he barked into the communications equipment he demanded from the Soldiers at that intersection. He was talking to the Company Commander. "I'm afraid you won't be training us *today*, Sergeant," replied the Commander. "Our cordon is set, and my Soldiers have orders not to let anyone inside it. Have a nice day."

What had been projected to be perhaps a six-hour mission was executed (flawlessly) in about three hours' time.

Rain had been forecast, but instead it was a beautiful, clear late-summer morning.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/21/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Unknown said...

My family members who were in military service in WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam would use a phrase I'm sure you know - SNAFU This sounds like a brilliant one, and even that turned out well - 3 hours rather than 6. I'd venture to say the Boss was smiling :-)

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