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Adventures in contracting.

I am often asked by friends and extended family, "What's it really like over there?".

Well, honestly, its mostly pretty mundane; I mean day today activities revolve around training, After action reviews, course review and adjustments, and dealing with students.

Now, to be fair, there are days and moments that you simply cannot make up in Hollywood; moments that make you scratch your head and rethink your life choices that led you to this point, and wonder if Walmart is currently hiring.

Back several years ago, when the Bum was new to contracting, I was teaching newly graduated medics about Ambulances; Now, this was a short drivers course, and we were given M1152 HUMMWV's, as we had not yet received the actual Ambulances yet.

For those familiar with Hummers ( military, not the civilian model) , they are big, ugly, heavy, and packed full of assorted military equipment...radio's, radio mounts, communications cables, etc...its a bit cramped inside.

Inside the Hummers, in between the driver and passenger seats is a large dividing area called the "transmission hump"....on top of this is a radio mount, radio, mounting brackets, equipment for navigation, Force tracking, and , on the driver side, just about where the right knee is, rests a small box with the outline of a small red octagon and a toggle switch under a red safety guard.
Remember that box...we'll get back to it momentarily.

Before even getting these students into the vehicles, we had a classroom portion that covered basic safety, rules of the road, and even road signs...keep in mind, the illiteracy rate in Afghanistan exceeds 70%.
Most of us grew up in the back seat of mom or dads car, and we learned a lot by watching....these particular students ( most) had never driven anything more complex than a donkey cart, so this was a BIG deal to them.

After the classroom portion we began with basic operation of the vehicle, where the instrument cluster was, and what it was used for...then we moved to actual driving.

We started simple....two long lines of cones about 100 meters long that they had to drive forward between and stop at the end of the cones.

Pretty simple stuff, right?

Well during after a few iterations of students, the next got in with his 3 companions...there was always one driver and passenger up front, and two passengers in the back...they get to the end of the cones and they swap out....and began to pull forward without issue....until he was about 15 meters from the end.

15 meters the end, I heard a soft "Fumpwooooosh!".....the Hummer jerked a few meters and came to a stop, all four doors popped open and the Afghan students fell out and flopped around on the ground like fish out of water.

Remember that little box on the transmission hum I mentioned earlier? yeah, lets get back to that.
See, inside most Military combat vehicles is a Halon fire suppression system, and in each corner of the crew cab is a small detector that triggers the Halon when there is a rapid flash of fire or heat ( think of a missile hitting a Tank, and the Halon goes off in micro seconds to suppress the flames inside of the stricken tank)....additionally, there is usually a manual triggering system for the Halon as well.....yes, you guessed it.

When I ran up to the vehicle and its former occupants, the first thing I asked was "What happened?"

The explanation left me....dazed.....But I had to kind of admire his logic.

The student driver stated that he remembered from the classroom portion and road sign training that the "Red Octagon" meant Stop.....there was an engine brake, and parking brake, and he reasoned that "It was just another Brake".

Needless to say, the other instructors disconnected the manual Halon trigger , and for two VERY long years, I never heard the end of that fiasco from my fellow Instructors.

Welcome to my world.

nota bene

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Aug 11, 2011
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I'm smiling as I imagine the students flopping like fish on the ground.

To be fair, if my only experience were driving a donkey cart, my own reasoning would follow the driver's. I totally get why he thought that was a super-convenient brake.

I hope you'll keep these stories coming--I'm learning a lot and enjoying so much.


I survived. Suck it, Schrodinger.
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Aug 15, 2017
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I will continue to do so; Writing helps pass the time, and allows me to write what I see and experience so I can pass it along to my family members that do not travel and experience other places.

I try to word my observations and experiences in a way that readers can relate to and understand...sometimes amusing, sometimes not so amusing.

But that's pretty much how life rolls, yes?
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