This past week was another good week of training. The beginning of the week focused on drivers training. Half of our team spent time learning how to drive the MRAP, whereas I and four others spent time getting training on driving the M1151 HMMWV the up-armored Humvee. Monday our afternoon was spent in the Humvee role-over trainer. Because the Humvee can be a very top heavy vehicle, it like a lot SUVs can have a potential to roll over under certain conditions. The roll-over trainer is basically a Humvee cab converted into a roller coaster ride. We would all strap into the vehicle, and then they would flip us upside down and we would work to climb out. The next day we went out driving. The main thing that I learned from taking time to drive the 1151 is that there are a lot of blind spots. The mirrors are basically useless, so it requires coordination with your front passenger/co-driver and gunner hanging out in the turret. We drove through an obstacle course designed for the Humvee to show off some of the capabilities. For a vehicle that weighs over 14,000 pounds, which is about as much as the Blackhawk helicopters I was flying, it had a good deal of get up and go. Tuesday evening we also put on night vision goggles (NVGs), and did some driving through the woods with no headlights. This wasn't much of a challenge for me, for all the time that I've spent flying with NVGs, still fun none the less. My teammates who went through MRAP training had different experiences to share. Main thing they learned is that the up-armored MRAP is extremely heavy, and can't really be taken off road is it might sink into the ground. So the have to be vigilant when driving, and aware of where they are going. A couple guys found themselves getting a bit of motion sickness riding the back of the vehicle, I'm guessing due to it's height above the ground and their lack of visibility out of the vehicle.
Thursday I spent a day in class learning about an Army system called blue for tracker. Which is basically a cross between GPS car navigation system, and an Qualcomm communication system that trucking companies have been using for years. Seems like it is a good system in which to keep track of where other good guys are at. I've used in my Aviation past, so it wasn't anything too challenging to pick up.
Friday I sat through some briefings put on by the local intelligence section. One of the cool sessions was on the biometrics tools we might be using in theatre. They have tools available which can take a picture of a person, upload their fingerprints, check their name and other information and then almost instantly bounce it against a list of possible wanted bad guys in theatre.
Almost every evening this past week, we also had to sit through more Dari language lessons. Some of the folks, myself included, were kind of frustrated a time or two with trying to learn such a foreign language. Amazingly though, bit by bit words and phases are starting to enter into our mind and stay there. One of the few words that I've actually been able to memorize and retain is Tashakur which equals Thank You.
This upcoming week I will be spent on the range. I'm looking forward to putting some rounds down range, and firing my grenade launcher. At the end of the week we have a two day pass and will be going to New Orleans for a couple nights. Something that every seems to be looking forward to.