Update 11-15-05

Re-greening. That's the word being used to describe the way folks down here are being reintroduced to the military. Re-greening here in sunny South Carolina includes a compressed schedule of refresher courses in first aid, tactical communications, fire arms – and focused training in convoy operations and room-clearing.

Those that know me well, know I haven’t drilled or trained in two years as an Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) soldier – but that’s miniscule compared with some of these guys who haven’t drilled in a decade. For example, one guy has been out for 18 years… retired but never resigned and subject to recall up to age 60. The Army has changed a lot since 2003 when I left…imagine how a guy feels who thought he retired in 1987.

The Army isn’t always known for logic, but there does seem to be a common thread. Our group is older, mature and all are former combat arms officers. Aside from depleted human resources, this seems to be a new experiment for the Army to win hearts and minds. Bring in people with a combination of warrior-ethos with successful civilian careers – and train them to be Civil Affairs officers.

Our mission? To remove “obstacles” so that operational units can focus on the bad guys. This can range from the seemingly benign such as coordinating the rebuilding of secondary schools, medical facilities or infrastructure for running water – to sexier missions such as “motivating” an unruly crowd of several hundred to stop blocking a road so a convoy can pass or preventing Red Cross aid packages that have been “delivered” from being repackaged and then sold on the black market at three times the value.

We will operate in small units distributed throughout Iraq and will require an ability to understand the social networks, dynamics and hierarchies at a local level. CA officers will try to determine who can be trusted, who cannot be trusted and how to influence the community to get things done.

In about 10 days we’ll head to NC for training on tasks including language and culture to information gathering and negotiation. There is also an abundant amount of time planned for the firing range and for field exercises. In sum, though this was not what I had anticipated, I’m getting over my initial dissapointment (a return to the infantry) and finding this becoming more and more interesting with every briefing.

Well, time is short, there’s got another time hack soon, so I’m off. Feel free to forward this note to anyone who maybe interested – anyone interested in being added to the distribution should send me a note at this address. I’ll try to send something out every few weeks.