Once you get in country, you get the opportunity to drag all your shit to some corner of the compound and make any last minute gear requests. And when I mean all your shit, it’s a lot. Multiple Pelicans and duffels jammed up til Christmas with any comm cord, dongle, power converter, etc., you could ever need. Some guys get sent out semi-hurriedly to very-hurriedly, and pack all their stuff cause they just don’t know where they will end up. When I deployed, it was a similar circumstance, and I brought everything I could. Including any weapon I could get my hands on. A SCAR-H, the EGLM (40mm grenade launcher that looks like the SCAR), Aimpoints, EO Techs, an M-4 with a short barrel, long barrel, and under barrel 203 attachment, and my trusty camp buddy, the Glock 19. Needless to say I came with some baggage.
You’ll spend a night or two getting some briefs on what was going on, and then, finally, get told exactly where you’re going. You’ll repack all your shit, this time maybe begging for a little extra cold gear, jam every mag you’ve got, and head out the next morning on a C-130 with the guys that are also heading to your region of the country, and maybe even your team. Ideally, the CCTs, PJs, or whoever you’re replacing will meet you at the airstrip, and will help you acclimate. I mean, after all, three days ago you were in Germany. Now you’re standing in some hot, dusty air field trying to orient North. And you’ve swapped out a t-shirt and jeans for your kit and rifle.
The guys you are trading out with hopefully aren’t burned out and disenfranchised and will give you a solid handover. My experience was very positive, and I learned as much as I could from those guys in a short time period. I was even lucky enough to take part in a “handover op.” During that op, some of the incoming ODA team and I basically left seat- right seated a mission and saw how things were going in that AO and how the other team had been running it. We took away what we liked, and left what tactics we didn’t like somewhere west of Kandahar. This is also when you meet your new team, who can’t tell the difference between the new JTAC dude, and the old JTAC dude, and doesn’t know who you really are for another 2 weeks, when it’s become clear that the “other” one left the country and isn’t returning. It’s okay though, you’ll grow to become friends with most of them.
As a CCT, you’ll stick like glue to the outgoing guys, soaking up their experiences in the past six months and trying to learn what you can in a few short days. You’ll get a good contact list from them of the guys that can hook you up at the flying squadrons. And if there’s time, you drive or fly to those squadrons and introduce yourself. Seriously- do that. Maybe that way they’ll remember your beautiful brown eyes when you’re huffing and puffing on the mic about being in a TIC and they’ll come save your ass. Always be good friends with the AC-130 and Apache dudes. Of course, if the ever-elusive and ever-oppressed (de oppresso liber!) A-10 guys are near you, you probably already know their voices by heart from your time on the range in the states or elsewhere. But go say hi again anyways. And hopefully you didn’t piss on their carpet in Tucson that night after the Halloween party. Or if you did, you blamed it on your boy up at Mez.
Continued in pt. 4
Image courtesy: USAF