Friday, August 17, 2007

Human Contrasts: A Comparison of Two Soldiers

A platoon makes a long run in uparmored HMMWV's to a facility outside baghdad to a remote training base.  In the 120 degree heat, the vehicles struggle with the 12,000 pound weight.  On the trip home, two vehicles stall, probably due to vapor lock.  The temperatures peg out on the gauges, and the platoon limps home, thankfully without any contact.

The platoon sergeant does not want to be caught like that again, and starts to think about what he could do to prevent it.  There is nothing in the army inventory designed to help.  He makes some metal hood scoops to force air into the engine compartment, and that helps some, but not in stalled traffic.  He visits DRMO (defense reutilization and maintenance organization), which is essentially a junkyard in Baghdad, full of blown up HMMWVs.  He pulls apart the heavy duty air conditioning units and takes the 14 inch 24 volt fans out, cuts holes in the hoods of the HMMWV's to install the fans, and the next time out the gauges never get above 220 degrees, with no difficulties or performance issues.  And he makes the trucks look like it was done by a professional.

The other soldier was initially assigned in that same position, but was fired by his commander for lacking leadership and soldier skills.   He was simply not capable of leadership of soldiers potentially under fire.  They are both Sergeants First Class.  He was assigned to the remote base the other soldier visited. 

There are only about 25 American soldiers assigned to this base, with about 500 Iraqi's, and deep in Indian Country.  The Americans are in a mini compound within the greater Iraqi compound.  The American compound has two radio commands that must be immediately followed by a battle drill:  one is "Mayday" which naturally means someone is in mortal peril, and everyone should drop what they are doing and find the person to help him.  The other is "Alamo" which means they are in danger of being over run, and everyone should go to their assigned battle station and prepare for the oncoming hoards.

The quiet of the work day was suddenly punctuated by "Mayday Mayday, Mayday!"  Everyone dutifully dropped what they were doing to search for soldier number 2, because they recognized his voice.  Very quickly they saw him in a HMMWV in the parking lot, with his face pressed to the window, with both hands near his head, screaming "mayday" in the radio.

They ran over to him, grabbed the door handle and opened it.  The soldier fell out, and said "I locked myself in."  He thought he was going to die from the heat.

If you are unfamiliar with an uparmored HMMWV, there are some things you should know: the doors are very heavy, and the windows are very small.  But there are 4 doors, and a gunners hatch that opens from the inside.  The doors open fairly easily on flat ground, which this was.  The only way to lock a door from the outside is to put a lock or piece of metal through the hasp.  None of the doors were locked, and though the windows are small, this particular soldier could have crawled out one.  Not to mention the gunner's hatch.

The first soldier is a stellar example of American ingenuity and mission first thinking, coupled with great leadership.  Soldier number 2 was just promoted to Master Sergeant.

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