There are times when you just should be realistic and just admit defeat. And when you are in a conventional National Guard unit, don’t get into a war of psychological operations with Special Forces guys. It is a losing proposition.
So, to quote the beginnings of the old “Lone Ranger” television series: Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when from out of the past comes the tale of the Special Forces contractors…
Back in 2004, the Iraq War was still going strong. Our contract was to provide 100 Iraqis to the Army and get the boys, and girls, confident in working with interpreters, learning a few of the catchphrases of the language, and preparing them for what they would face once on the ground.
We brought about 100 Iraqis of various groups (Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, Christian, including Christian women) to Ft. Dix, NJ, to prepare selected units prior to going into the sandbox. Having this eclectic group of Iraqis presented a serious challenge for us. There were frequent issues between the groups and at times things would get ugly. Putting them all up in one hotel right off the Jersey Turnpike was… interesting.
Like the time the weather turned bad with lightning strikes hitting the training area. The Army called off the last couple of training events for that afternoon. The Iraqis piled into the vans, still dressed like insurgents, and zipped back to the hotel. As they piled out of vans, horrified travelers stopping at the Days Inn, started calling the FBI about a “major terrorist incident” about to go down — which got us a visit by the Bureau. But I digress, this article is about the Guard.
The National Guard units were a mixed bag. Some were very good, with strong senior leadership and good NCOs. Other units? Not so much. One outstanding unit was a bunch of tankers from Minnesota, who were going over to Iraq as infantry. We worried that they’d be in over their heads; we were wrong, they did excellent during their time.
Around late October, a unit from the New York National Guard came in and that’s when the fireworks began. I would be around the training site all day, and frequently all night long. And whenever I wasn’t actively involved in the training itself, I’d be hanging out with our roleplayers or the Army trainers. And when I did, being the Masshole that I am, I would wear either my Red Sox or New England Patriots hats. This the NY guard boys found truly offensive. In case anyone doesn’t know, although NY and Boston are very close geographically, in the sporting world they are oil and water. The rivalry is intense, almost comically so at times.
Now to put the incident in context: In 2004, the Patriots were Super Bowl champions and en route to another 14-2 Super Bowl championship season, where they’d beat the Philadelphia Eagles, located just outside of Ft. Dix, which pissed off everyone on base. However, in late October, the Red Sox and Yankees were involved in the American League Championship Series. And the Yankees were kicking their asses, romping the first three games to be within one win of a sweep and off to a World Series matchup with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Yankee fans took great delight in chanting “Who’s Your Daddy?” to the Red Sox since at that time the Sox hadn’t won a WS in 86 years. So, my Guard boys would razz the living shit out of me every day, with “Who’s Your Daddy?” every time I entered the site wearing either a Sox or Pats hat. Then something magical happened:
In Game 4, the Red Sox were down in the 9th inning with only one out left in their season. The Yanks’ closer, Mariano Rivera, possibly the best closer in the game’s history, was on the mound. Yet, the Red Sox weren’t done with. Dave Roberts stole second and then scored to tie the game on a hit. The Red Sox won it in the 12th inning on a home run by David Ortiz.
Game 5 had the Yanks up by two again, but Ortiz blasted a two-run homer to tie in the eighth and singled home the winning run in the 14th to make the series 3-2. And the Yankee fans in the Guard were getting quiet. Game 6 featured an ace performance by Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and now the series was tied. Game 7 had the Red Sox blow out the Yankees 10-3 thereby concluding the greatest comeback ever.
The next morning was cloudy with some misty rain — perfect training weather. As the now sullen Guard troops lined up in their formation to do a scenario, I put on a shemagh with the Iraqis and had a treat for them. The scenario called for the troops to respond to an Iraqi demonstration. I stood out in the middle of the crowd of Iraqis and invited them to look to the sky and reach out with their arms. Noting the misty rain falling, I told the Iraqis in a loud voice that they were just the tears of the Yankee nation who choked… royally.
The troops were pissed. That’s when the Iraqis followed home with a “Special” Arabic chant which in English sounded like this: min-whoo-ah a-beek. After a few minutes, the translator working with the troops, who didn’t know what was planned, began to look puzzled. The American platoon commander asked what they were chanting. The translator said, “It doesn’t make sense… they’re asking “who’s your daddy?”
A couple of the soldiers almost lost their composure that morning. But we weren’t done. When the training was almost done, we were in our building on the main base. I noticed that the inmates at the Ft. Dix national prison had set up bleachers against the backside of our building. I asked what they were for and I was told that the guard was taking a unit photo that afternoon before they deployed to Iraq.
I was in the second-story window watching the troops line up on the bleachers with the photographer facing us. I quietly opened the double windows and sneakily hung a huge New England Patriots beach blanket out the window with the help of my trusty Kurdish friend Abdullah and we lowered it to where is it just behind the troops. No one saw it. As soon as the pictures were finished, Abdullah and I pulled it back up and closed the window.
About two months later, the photographer sent the unit a couple of hundred copies of the unit photo. Imagine the smiles on the New York National Guard troops when upon opening-up their photo and saw a Patriots banner hanging behind them.
It wasn’t long after that, that I received an email from one of the kids from the National Guard unti. He thought all of this was a riot and took it all in the same smartassery spirit in which it was given.
“You are now hated more than Saddam Hussein or al-Qaeda over here,” he wrote. “My entire unit has voted you as the biggest fucking asshole who ever shit between a pair of boots.” I thought about a response and finally wrote. “ Thanks, Who’s Your Daddy Now?”
My work here is done.