More “combatives” today (as the Army calls it.) It wasn’t that fun for me today, primarily because I had to wake at 4 in the morning to attend the class. (Yeah, the Army doesn’t really think sleep is a prerequisite for training. In the Air Force, waking at 0400 would be grounds for a formal complaint!)
After I did my Royce Gracie impersonation, our team headed for more training on ground movements and emergency medical care. One scenario had us walking to a village to interact with the locals (a scenario which mimics our upcoming mission in the ‘stan.) During the scenario, we were attacked by a suicide bomber. (Lucky this was only training.) It made me realize what a difficult position Provincial Reconstruction Teams are in.
We have to figure out a way to enter a foreign village, unable to speak the language, and convince them to interact with them, while still feeling them out to find out who is hostile and who doesn’t want us there (so we don’t die in the process.)
This means that in many places that don’t have a solid telecommunications infrastructure (which is most of Afghanistan,) the primary way we “meet” people is to just approach them (since few have phones.) If luck is with us, people will welcome us, but if luck isn’t with us (like it wasn’t today,) we might walk into a bad situation.
Let’s say you are originally from a nice lil’ midwestern town (say, Topeka, Kansas.) And, let’s say you’ve been tasked with traveling into Marcy Projects in (Bed-Stuy) Brooklyn, New York. You can’t call before you travel, and everyone will know you are coming. You’re tasked with finding people who need help, but don’t know who needs your help or even if they want your help at all …
Can you imagine being told you had to walk into a neighborhood you’ve never been into before; a neighborhood you KNOW is dangerous; and a neighborhood where you don’t know the language, and they KNOW you don’t belong there? That’s kind of like the situation PRTs are in. (For the record, I’m not dissin’ Marcy, but nobody can deny that during the 1980’s they weren’t the safest projects in the world.) I’m not equating Marcy Projects to the Taliban, but I bet that I would have the same apprehension about walking into Marcy for the first time as I expect to have when I’m walking into a new Afghan village.
I’m not superstitious … scratch that. I am now.