29 August 2006
Friends, I wanted to post the experience of a member of our armed services who was recently recalled to Iraq. His experience personifies the "purple" nature of operations. For the uninitiated, this means the use of joint (Army/Navy/Air Force/Marines/Coast Guard/SOF) units in contingencies. What is important to note is the tremendous work exercised to prepare a Navy guy for what was, traditionally, an Army job.
By the way, Jimmy is normally a pretty well compensated civilian engineer. Time and again I read about the "economic" gap of our nations best off not serving. Rest assured, this is pure bunk. Almost all the senior officers (certainly the medical and legal recalls) come from very successful civilian roles, and suffer significantly upon deployment. Although I don't expect to run into Ned Lamont (or his kids - their choice, by the way), I have met more than a few well off folks taking significant personal
Apologies, there are a LOT of TLA (three letter acronyms) in the text. My apologies, I will happily explain to the curious, however, there are a number of very good military acronym sites.
One of our members asked me to share the recall experience with you - this is probably a good idea since each of you is likely to have a similar experience in the future.
I was recalled on the 10th of January of this year. I received the news on New Years Eve. From what I can tell, I was recalled due to a combination of my MAS code of "VOL" and dropping into IAP status for a few weeks while my unit transitioned from SUBPAC to SUBLANT in late 2005.
I was mobilized through Millington, TN (the closest mob site to my Fort Worth reserve center). I went to Millington for a few days and then was sent to Fort Jackson, SC. My initial orders indicated that I was to go to Afghanistan as a Navy Individual Augmentee (IA), although I ended up in Iraq.
I was in the first Navy IA class at Jackson which was called the Navy Combat Course. We learned the rudiments of being ground-pounding soldiers from OUTSTANDING Army Reserve drill instructors who normally run the Army's Common Task Training (CTT) program for Army IRR soldiers. This is basically an infantry refresher course. It focused on small arms, crew served weapons, convoy procedures, land navigation, CBR training, 1st Aid, communications, small unit movement, and related skills. Since we were the first course, there was a steep learning curve for the Army and the Navy. The instruction was very thorough. Most of my classmates deployed to the CENTCOM AOR with most going to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Just before I was to deploy, the Army realized that it had really intended to make me a Civil Affairs officer. So I was sent to Fort Bragg for three more months with the Army's Special Operations Command. I am administratively assigned to the Navy's new Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). NECC is tasked with establishing a Maritime CA capability in the near future. The Navy folks that took this course and deployed with me comprise the
pool of folks for this contingency. As such, we anticipate future recall as Navy CA bubbas.
At Bragg, I attended a 4-week Civil Affairs course run by the Special Operations command and had additional combat training that duplicated much of the Fort Jackson experience. The Fort Bragg training included additional focus on preparing for the Iraq theater with a lot of time spent on tactical vehicle operations (HUMVEEs and their ilk), a Combat Life Saver (CLS) course, and other things required by the Special Operations command. At completion of this training I was assigned the Army's 38A MOS (Civil Affairs Officer) and the Navy's CA NOBC.
At Bragg, I was assigned to the US Army's 354th Civil Affairs Brigade along with a number of other Navy Officers and enlisted. This unit is the HQ unit for the various CA Battalions and Companies currently deployed here. In the process, we were issued a lot of stuff. I was issued DCU uniforms (some other IAs wear the Army's ACU uniform). They pretty much gave us everything you could imagine - 4 full seabags of stuff. You name it and they gave it to us. The basic combat kit consists of a Advanced Combat Helmet, a set of Individual Body Armor (IBA) that included the vest, shoulder protection, and ceramic armor plate inserts, a set of load bearing gear, an M-4 carbine, an M-9 pistol, basic combat load, camel back, CLS aid bag, combat knife, ballistic goggles, combat gloves, and knee/elbow pads. My walking around town kit weighs 81 pounds. We deployed in late April and relieved the 322nd CA Brigade. This was a historic event as the first US CA unit comprised of Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen to deploy in combat.
I lead the brigade's Humanitarian Assistance (HA) team whose job is to coordinate HA for the Iraqi theater. As such, we coordinate the distribution of medical supplies, clothing, food, school supplies, toys, sporting goods, and equipment to the maneuver units in the field. We receive these items from government donations, excess US military property, and donations from various charity groups. This is a very rewarding job.
My other assignment is to a team of folks that perform assessments of various Iraqi industrial facilities. I lead the technical assessment of the facilities. Our goal is to determine what needs to happen to get the facility back into full production. This is a great opportunity for an ED with a manufacturing background.
So what do you need to do to get ready? Good question - PT, PT, and PT some more. It is hot as blazes here and the armor is a burden to wear all day in the desert heat. I cannot emphasize how important it is to be in good physical condition in the event you are recalled. In my case, I had the better part of 4 months to get used to the kit, but most people will spend only a few weeks in the states before you arrive here. You also need to get your affairs in order. Given my short notice, I had a couple of days at work and then the rest was focused on packing and hugging good-bye. You do not want to spend that time trying to get a will, POA, passport, financial arrangements, in place. Do it now. Pack your seabag so that you can go when called. If you have BDUs or DCUs plan to bring them with you.
You will send all your other uniforms back home before you deploy. Have that long talk with your loved ones about the sacrifice each of you may face before you ever get the call. Plan to be deployed to a bad place and if it happens you will be ready. Did I mention PT?
It has been the most challenging and rewarding experience of my life. When you go to war you learn a lot about yourself and why you are here in this world. The depth of need in this place is stunning. Have no doubts that we are fighting the good fight in Iraq. The enemy practices evil not seen since WWII. I obviously miss my family and friends, but the sacrifice is worth it when you look into the eyes of children that have had no hope all their lives. We are working hard to get the schools open, the lights on, and destroy the tyranny that reigned unabated in this country. It is a very difficult job. Each step forward is bought with the nations treasure of our soldiers' lives and our country's riches. To whom much is given much is expected. Thank you for your service and supporting our nation.
If you have any questions, feel free to write me.
CDR Jimmy Cox, USN / 354th Civil Affairs Brigade / APO AE 09342