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.