Saturday, February 15, 2020

Training at Muscatatuck

I spent this past week up at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana.  I was on a team that worked with a bunch of Defense Department civilians who are heading to Afghanistan for a year.  We do a pretty intensive training program that's a lot of fun and very rewarding.  I've written about it before on this blog.  If you're interested, you can check out posts here, here, and here.  Basically, it's immersive training.  They live on a base, have to coordinate with their military security force to convoy out to meet with Afghan officials, plan for the meetings, learn to work with an interpreter, figure out what's really going on within the Afghan organizations and between the people, and put together a briefing for the Colonel at the end.  The Afghan officials and interpreters, by the way, are real Afghans.  The course puts all their classroom education to practical use and stretches their own personal capabilities.  It's really good stuff.

There were two very noteworthy things that came out of this particular class.  One was my team.  This was a very diverse group.  Some had military experience, some had been in Afghanistan before, some were technicians, others were managers, there were both males and females, and there was a variety of ethnic backgrounds.  When they started, they were a bunch of individuals with only a rough idea of what they were going to be doing.  Gradually they pulled together.  Every training scenario that they went through showed improvement.  Then, in the very last training event, one that is very ambiguous and much more difficult than it appears, they nailed it.  The senior Afghan role-player said at the end, "THIS is the team that I have been waiting for!"  And he's been doing this for years.  I'm not taking credit for this - my role was to mentor the team and guide them along.  They had to do the work.  But they did a fantastic job.  I've been floating on cloud nine ever since.

The other noteworthy item was one of the students.  He was on the other team this week, not mine.  He had been through this training a couple of years ago and then gone downrange to Afghanistan.  A couple of months into his assignment, his vehicle hit an IED, which banged him up, but he stayed in-country.  A month or two later, an Afghan National Police officer turned on his team and sprayed them with gunfire.  Our student woke up in a hospital in Germany.  He's been recuperating ever since and is still dealing with PTSD.  But, and this is a very big "but", he volunteered to go back to Afghanistan, and fought hard for the opportunity. 

You have to wonder, why would a civilian volunteer to go back to a place where he had very nearly been assassinated?  I talked with him a few times.  He's an impressive guy, very cheerful, very positive, big smile all the time, and very smart.  He was thoroughly enjoying the training and looking forward to his new job downrange.  When I asked him why he was doing it, he said, "I didn't get to finish the job."

So this is the type of man that America can still produce.  Makes me proud.  And I'm proud to be able to help train people like him.

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