Training for war

It has been a busy last couple of weeks. I'm here at lovely (can you hear the sarcasm in my voice?) Fort Dix in New Jersey where a low has been sitting of the coast bringing in plenty of tropical moisture just in time for our field training in combat contingency skills. But I must say that this has been an enlightening and worthwhile couple of weeks. We've been going full steam with long days and no days off. But the upside is that I feel much more confident about handling myself in the middle of a war zone than I would have been without the training.

We have a large class. There are seven chaplains and seven chaplain assistants and some JAG officers mixed into a whole bunch of Air Force Security Forces. Over the past few weeks we have practiced combat tactics out in the field, urban building clearing, operating out of a Foward Operating Base, and convoys. I've been shot at with simulated ammunition -- wasn't hit fortunately. I learned early to keep my hiney down! There are some interesting bruises amongst the people on my fire team though. Of course part of the reason that I wasn't hit is that since chaplains are non-combatants and do not carry weapons, we tend to get deposited in a reasonably safe spot of the action while the combatants move on and take care of business.

I can't go into a lot of details about the kinds of training due to its being protected in nature, but I can say that it is top notch and that the troops impressed me with how serious they through themselves into it and with how well they did. They train as they will fight because they will fight as they train. I did participate in every major evolution even though I was not a shooter. I've been rained on, shot at, mortared (simulated but sounds like the real thing complete with concussions), enjoyed day after day of MRE field rations, ran around the woods like a banshee with 100 pounds of gear and body armour, driven humvees through mud thick enough to capture a horse, learned how to respond to attacks, how to move with a fire team as it engaged in offensive and defensive ops, learned how convoys should respond to various scenarios, and learned how to save a life of an injured servicemember when wounded. I've learned radios and call signs and what to look for in terms of danger signals in the environment around me.

And I've learned at lot about our AF security forces (who we affectionately call "cops"). They are more than cops. They are first rate combat troops and they have a difficult job. Downrange (deployed) they will work 7 days a week often 12 hours or more a day on the line or even outside the wire providing security for convoys. They work hard. This training evolution has been the first time I've spent any substantial time with these kinds of troops and they have earned my enduring respect.

These last days are reserved for specific training related to our professional position -- so the cops have gone on to more detailed training and the chaplains are meeting to learn more about spiritual and emotional issues frequently encountered downrange and how to engage them. All in all its has been a good time. There is a saying one often hears in the military: "Its all good". In this case I have to say even being soaked to the skin and laying in the mud -- it was all good!