September 10, 2012

Name: Tyrell Mayfield
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Milblog: The Kabul Cable
Email: click here

I wrapped up three full months of Dari language training recently with a 35 minute telephone Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI). It was draining. The whole purpose of the OPI is to take you to failure so that the tester can get a feel for just how well you know the language. Over the course of 35 minutes I was given the opportunity to fail over and over again — and I did not pass it up.

That being said, my test probably went much better than it appeared from my end. Being asked difficult questions is good and the test went fairly long which I think is another positive indicator as well. I hope to have my test results back in the next week, until then it’s on to the next set of tasks at hand.

I spent most of today going over a stack of checklists and getting equipment issued. I hauled three brand new bags of kit out to my truck today and couldn’t help but notice that I was issued equipment in three camouflaged patterns, four if you counted the ABUs I was wearing. I had an entire new set of load bearing equipment, rucksack and multiple bags in the new OCP* (multicam) pattern. Instead of developing any tactical equipment in their own ABU pattern (Airman Battle Uniform tiger striped Pattern) the Air Force simply piled on the Army ACU (Army Combat Uniform) purchases so I ended up with a few odd pieces in that pattern as well, most importantly a poncho liner. Then I went over to LRS* and signed out an IOTV* body armor set to take to my predeployment training. When the civilian at the warehouse opened the door it was all I could do to keep from scoffing. There, in all their faded glory, lay stacks of body armor in DCU pattern (desert camouflage uniform). I couldn’t believe it.

To be fair, I’ll get issued brand new IOTV in the OCP pattern for use while I am deployed, and by the time I hit the ground in Afghanistan I’ll have a full set of matching kit and uniforms, which is what really matters. But I am still a bit taken aback that we’re having people run around and conduct training in DCU pattern uniform items. I won’t be — I fixed that today. I simply refuse to run around looking like some Rwandan Rebel in multiple, mis-matched camouflaged patterns. It makes me want to fire my weapon overhead in an indiscriminate manner while wearing flip-flops. I don’t care if it’s just for training or not; it looks stupid.

This whole uniform thing seems like such a distraction to me. I am not exactly sure where it went wrong, but I think it’s gotten totally out of hand. Case in point: Following the USMC and Army development of their own distinctive pattern of uniforms the Air Force decided to jump onboard the bandwagon and create their own; which they did. They promptly realized after fielding it that a uniform with a high polyester content is not a good choice for Airmen who are getting hit with IEDs (plastic tends to melt when heat is applied). So they designed and fielded the ABSG (Airman Battle System - Ground) which was flame retardant and generally well received. The ABSG was short-lived and has all but been replaced by the OCP pattern which is growing in its prevalence downrange.

In just over a decade of war the Air Force has fielded five completely different uniform sets in this conflict: DCUs, ABUs, ABSGs and now OCPs. I’m not sure what the solution is, but one would think that with a war going on somebody might have paid more attention to this and put a little bit of thought into the process.

Ahead are more outprocessing tasks, a couple of days on the range, and hours in front of a computer re-accomplishing all of my annual CBTs (Computer Based Training) for the second time this year so that it will be current for most of my deployment.


OCP: Operation Enduring Freedom Camouflage Pattern
LRS: Logistics Readiness Squadron
IOTV: Improved Outer Tactical Vest


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