I joined the Army National Guard when I was 17 and did it for the money. When I enlisted in March, 2000 I would have never imagined that I would have been deployed three times in total to Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been in combat arms units, combat support units, and combat service and support units. When I received my first small wars training, I asked the instructors why we were not spending more time on that subject since that was the way our enemies would fight us. The response was simply, “we don’t make the curriculum, we just teach it.” The curriculum has since changed.
When I deployed the first time with an armored unit, all the tank crews who had trained for the day to see the silhouette of a T-72 in their tank sights were given HMMWVs (Humvees) instead of the great Abrams tank. Soldiers who had been trained to destroy enemy tanks and armored vehicles were now walking on the street, nowhere near the tons of armor panels on a M1 tank. “Death before dismount” was a great saying for the 19Ks (tank crewman) but in Iraq in 2005 the phrase did nothing more but remind those tankers that they did not have a tank to fight in.
I deployed again with that armor unit to Iraq in 2009-2010. Again, no tanks. Those tankers and mechanized infantrymen did have MRAPs this time instead of HMMWVs, so that was a step in the right direction I guess.
That deployment made me realize that there is no place for a tank unit on today’s battlefield. Any future tank-on-tank “war” will be over within weeks, long before an Army National Guard unit will have their Soldiers and equipment in position to be used in that fight. I decided that if I was going to be fighting small wars, I should join a unit that is solely designed and trained to fight them.
Not long after I joined the special operations unit we were alerted for a deployment. Eventually it was decided that my unit would be training Afghan National Army Commandos and Afghan Special Forces.
The shift from wanting a SOF (Special Operations Forces) mission to actually getting the most unglamorous and thankless SOF mission was not easy to deal with. DEVGRU or SFOD-D don’t do FID. There is nothing sexy about FID. The best thing it could be compared to is teaching middle school in a bad school district. You will not see a movie with Chuck Norris or Steven Segal sitting around for hours drinking so much chai that he is about to piss himself. It isn’t sexy, but that is FID. And FID is one of our tools to ensure a small war doesn’t turn into a big war.
I have moved on from that special operations unit, which is good because I am nearing the end of my career. It is time to develop and be a mentor to those professionals who will be protecting us when I finally do retire.
As a civilian, I have worked as a defense contractor since 2007, excluding my overseas tours with the National Guard. None of it has been in the Blackwater/Xi “mercenary” role. My jobs have had me based in the states with occasional travel overseas. All my jobs as a contractor have been in a training or support role to the warfighter’s mission.