Sometimes life does imitate art. After the military and during my time as a contractor, our hires in support of Iraqi and Afghan operations did some incredibly difficult and excellent work in support of military objectives. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some fun involved.

Once, we had “The Predator”—yes that one—attack some Air Force guys one summer day.

As the temperatures reached sweltering levels, I was approached by an Air Force training officer. He was part of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, known as OSI. Some of his people, assigned to protective service operations and getting ready for their tour in Iraq, wanted a final tune-up before kicking off their tour. They wanted to know if we wanted to get involved with some training—have some of our Iraqi nationals acting as role-players (villagers, protestors, insurgents, etc.). Naturally, we were delighted to be of service.

The Air Force guys were using Simunition, not paintball guns, which added to the realism and the pain when you got nailed with one. Their Simunition fired from either a 9mm SIG Sauer or Glock, or a modified M4 with a paintball attachment. They’d leave a nasty welt on your skin if it wasn’t protected. Our AF liaison warned us to dress with thick layers and issued everyone a full-face helmet.

Despite the temps in the morning already pushing beyond the century mark, I erred on the side of caution: I wore my only thick jacket—a black winter coat—a heavy scarf, and winter gloves. I had a river of sweat running down the crack of my fourth point of contact that looked like the Nile. But the first time one of those sim rounds cracked into my shoulder, I wasn’t complaining.

Everyone had to wear the full-face helmet as a safety precaution. One of the Iraqis’ helmets kept fogging up and he kept lifting it up to clear it. Both our AF liaison and I told him he was playing with fire. The Iraqis eschewed the thick clothing as well. Maybe it was a macho thing; I don’t know. But what I do know is that they would soon regret it.

Just before the shooting started.

Our scenarios ran the entire gamut of different things the teams might encounter: peaceful villages with a friendly populace or with a mix of friendlies and unfriendlies, ambushes of the teams, and running into a firefight with multiple insurgents in a small town.

The AF OSI teams did very well as they cycled through the little town; they were well trained and had obviously worked together as teams for a while. Our liaison training officer began to insert some different scenarios into the exercises. I decided to blend in with the Iraqi villagers and get as close as possible to get some pictures of the training. My heavy winter gloves made the manipulation of the camera too difficult, so rather than going back to my vehicle for my Mechanix gloves, I opted for the gloveless look.