The Shape of our Forces
By RU Contributor Solomon G.
The tasking came down… I was to deploy to provide medical support to a Navy unit on an Army camp. AF working for USN on an USA post – Charlie Foxtrot in making? Quite possible, but more to come on that later. In order to prepare for the Joint Expeditionary Tasking, I had several just-in-time training courses to attend. No worries, I don’t mind getting smarter, especially if it just might save my ass.
I’m in the Air Force. No Special Ops, extensive combat experience about me or my career field, but I am true military to the core. One of the courses I have to attend is CAST (Combat Airmen Skills Training), which is a basic overview of land navigation, small arms training, combat casualty treatment, IED management, rolling convoys, etc. Basic stuff, but just enough information for me to recognize when my life is in jeopardy, reduce the threat and maintain combat effectiveness.
Sitting in the large classroom for the day 1 brief, I look around to see just who the AF is sending into harm’s way. I see men and women in all ranks from A1C (E-3) to Lt Cols and career fields from contracting to intel. I’m the only medic in this class of 60, but it’s all good. Then it hits me- the Body Mass Index (BMI) of this group is pretty significant! I mean, there are some chunky monkeys anchoring this team, but if they can handle their business and put Hell fire on the enemy, who really gives a shit? If the Air Force thinks they’re ready for war, then I have no say in it. In the big scheme if things, they are all here to complete a mission.
As the training day progresses, we are divided into our fire teams-larger number of personnel than normal, but effective enough for training. My team has its fair share of big-boned-battle buddies. Like I said earlier, if they can bring it, I have no issues.
We now find ourselves in the pouring rain, full battle gear, working on individual and troop movements. One of the drills is the low crawl-you know it, face in the mud, pushing along. The majority of my team finishes well and as we wipe the goop from our weapons, we look back to see one of our larger members struggling in the mud. This NCO looked like 150 year old tortoise stuck in quick sand. To top it off, she was giving us attitude as we tried to motivate her to finish strong. It gets better… After the second crawl of less than 20 meters, the medical staff was called over to help her catch her breath and hydrate. She was pulled from the rest of the movement training. Really? This Airman is Fit to Fight?
I put the incident behind me as we move into land navigation training. We have a compass, a map and 6 locations to navigate to. Overall, this first exercise seems pretty benign, probably a total of 5 kilometers to cover. As we venture out into the wilderness, I hear heavy breathing behind me, kinda like a wilderbeast, grunting and groaning for attention. Our heavyweight is struggling. I asked if all is well and I get the standard “I’m good!”. Soon after the third rally point, roughly 2.5 clicks from the start, it happens. The breathing becomes more labored and soon the cry for help. Our fire team stops to address the flailing airman and I realize this is more than a cry for help. This individual looks like they’re knocking on death’s door. As a medic, my ears perk up and I’m ready to asses the situation and provide some care to prevent harm or injury. But to my dismay, the only issue I find is that this would be warfighter is carrying way to much meat on her bones and her body just can’t handle being in this environment.
Later on in convoy ops training, my vehicle comes under fire, so we bail out…all except for our big one. She’s stuck and can’t seem to maneuver herself out of the vehicle. I stay and provide cover fire, so she can get out and I nearly got detached from my team in the process. I couldn’t help to think what I would do if this were a real scenario and those weren’t blanks but live rounds and the instructors were insurgents. Needless to say, we got through this portion of training, but I witnessed first-hand a big foul in the way we “man” our forward deployed units.
I have no grudge against her, except when she was double-fisting apple pies at chow, which was an awesome display of gluttony, by the way. I have no grudge against women either. I can change the gender of this NCO, the service branch, the career field and any other demographic to match someone you know or comes to mind.
I do have a grudge with whoever said this person was ready to go closer to the fight and cleared her to deploy. Arguments can say that she may be in a job that doesn’t warrant extensive physical activity, therefore it doesn’t really matter her size or physical capability. I beg to differ. We have to be physically, emotionally and mentally ready at all times to perform whatever mission falls into our hands. Many of those missions do require an adequate amount of strength, endurance and stamina. Lacking these qualities is detrimental to the overall effectiveness of the warfighter and their ability to complete missions. I feel this individual put our team and missions at risk in training scenarios. What are the chances this is happening in the AOR also?
Now that I’m here (in an undisclosed location), we have been treating several service members with conditions that should have never allowed them to leave the States. I understand this may be a part of the American war machine, I just hope this doesn’t become our Achilles’ Heel.