Friday, August 20, 2010

Ft. Dix: "Warrior" Training

The team spent one month at Ft. Dix, NJ undergoing basic combat training.  Ft. Dix is one of the locations where navy and air force units tasked with supplementing army missions are trained. 

Since we are 1. navy and 2. medical there is no doubt that some type of training is in order.  That said, given the "one size fits all" approach to training, I now get the movie MASH like never before.  The army told us repeatedly that the goal was to make us not sailors, airmen, or soldiers, but warriors...without the eagle feathers.

It was two weeks of useful training crammed into one month.  On one hand, we received some excellent briefs on Afghan culture, learned to shoot straight, talked on the radio, and generally acclimated to the army's method of doing business.

On the other hand, the army seemed bent on turning us into infantry.   So we conducted foot patrol tactics, shot machine guns, threw hand grenades, kicked in doors to take down a room, learned some hand-to-hand combat (God help me if I ever am reduced to relying on that!), and had a hard time taking a lot of it seriously.  At one point I found myself on a fire team with a transplant surgeon, a colorectal surgeon, and a critical care nurse which probably set the record for most over-trained, under-performing fire team in the history of grunts.

The Geneva convention actually bans medical personnel from conducting offensive operations.  Plus the army only issues us a 9mm pistol for personal protection.   One of our surgeons who has deployed several times put it all into perspective.  On his last deployment, he was told by the gunnery sergeant on a convoy "Unless the Taliban is physically dragging you out by your feet, you are not to shoot, load your weapon, or get out of the vehicle.  If you are the last man standing, then you can take charge.  Got it Doc?"

The army even scheduled us for their basic combat lifesaver course where grunts are taught how to put on a tourniquet, etc.  We threw a bit of a stink and managed to get out of this, but it begged the question "why".  However, if I have learned one thing in the military over 20 years, it is that asking such questions is akin to teaching a pig to sing.  It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

In any event, we made it through, are "certified" for theater operations, and headed down range.

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