One of the questions I receive from those seeking an overseas job on the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) project, is whether there are opportunities for advancement once you get there. For persons who arrive onto the project ready to meet and exceed the requirements of the position for which they were hired, the answer is a resounding yes – but with a couple of caveats.
The “powers that be” on LOGCAP first want to see how a person performs on the job, which if you are working in Afghanistan, is an open conflict zone – and that means that when commuting to the office in the morning whether by vehicle or on foot, there may be an unexpected stop at a bunker along the way due to an incoming mortar or rocket attack. If you are close enough to a bunker that you can get into it within a few seconds of hearing the alert WITHOUT running, great – but if not, the wisest thing to do is to immediately drop to the deck, put your nose in the dirt, fold your hands over the back of your head, and pray to whatever higher power you believe in. That’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do if you hear an alert and are not mere steps away from the relative safety of a bunker (anything but a direct hit or right at the entrance).
When conducting in-briefings for new hires arriving to the Anaconda Transit Center at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, the first thing I would tell people – even before roll call – was what to do in case of an in-coming alert, which was to stop, drop and cover. If you’re lucky and it’s only a couple of mortar rounds coming in, you can be in close proximity to the explosion/s, and still be okay if you’re lying flat on the ground – the reason being, is that when a mortar explodes, the shrapnel and debris generally travels up and away at a 45 degree angle. Your ears may ring for a while afterwards, but other than that, you should be alright with the exception perhaps of one doozy of a headache.
Then, you can continue on your merry sunshine way to the office.
Having worked in Kuwait and arriving there in February of 2003 well before the start of shock and awe, I had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of how to properly don a gas mask and NBC suit – and I’m not talking about NBC the television network – I’m talking about a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical charcoal lined suit which along with boots, gloves and a hood is designed to save your life. It wasn’t until after the start of the war that I got real good, real fast at getting that suit on, covered from head to toe completely isolated from the outside elements, but there were numerous drills before the kick-off, staggered at all hours of the day and night. It was during one of these nighttime drills, which happened to coincide with the arrival of a busload of new hires coming from the airport that I and my fellow compatriots appearing in our NBC suits and gas masks, dutifully filed by these ill-fated wide-eyed passengers helplessly confined to their seats, as we made our way to the bunkers. Following the “all clear, all clear, all clear”, there were some forlorn souls who, being so traumatized by what they had just witnessed refused to get off the bus, indignantly demanding to immediately be taken back to the airport.
In Afghanistan, chemical and/or gas attack is not the consideration it was in Iraq, but make no mistake about it – there will still be plenty of occasions requiring you to spend time in the bunkers with your Kevlar helmet and vest on.
Can living under the continual threat of dismemberment or imminent death by rocket and/or mortar attack take its toll on a person’s ability to focus and concentrate on the job at hand? Well, sure – not everybody is cut out for LOGCAP. When you’re living and working in the danger zone, you never know what’s going to happen from one minute to the next, which is why I tell people that if you have the slightest doubt about your physical, mental and emotional ability to accept and embrace that reality, don’t even think about applying. Seek life elsewhere.