in NATO Forces

Sunny Sundays with CPT Steve: The Zombies Are Coming!

CPT Steve, our PAO is back. Yes, by the time this posts it’ll be late on Sunday here, but there’ll  still be plenty of Sunday where most of IASIK’s readers are, so that’s that. Been a week since the last post on the blog…introspective times here at the blog, which should make for an interesting week. 

Hey there, folks! Steve here once again bringing yet more sunshine to the dark little corners of curmudgeonry that this place can sometimes be. El Snarkistani’s been unusually grumpy lately, but I gotta tell ya…things here are going great! Especially with all the attempted killing of government officials. That means they’re doing a great job, and the dirty ol’ Taliban just want to stop it! Villagers rising up against the Taliban all over, and all those IEDs all mean one thing: the insurgency is almost dead.

Plus, they’re not spending nearly as much time trying to attack our ISAF men and women: instead they’re going after the Afghan National Security Forces,  and that’s a sign that they’re getting even more proficient in their combat skills. Otherwise, why would the Taliban attack them? Everyone knows that the Taliban, like all insurgents, will only take on targets that present a challenge, and right now that challenge is coming from the ANSF, not ISAF. #ANSFCanDo!!!

You know what else is challenging? Boredom. And zombies!

Task Force Protector Base Defense Operations received reports of zombies spotted in the vicinity of Malholic Range here, June 12, 2012. Soldiers of Task Force Protector, Headquarters and Headquarters Company were ordered to assess and neutralize the threat.

Soldiers of HHC arrived on the scene at 8:00 a.m. and soon realized the situation was more complex than initial reports had indicated. Zombie hoards had overrun Malholic Range and were attacking civilians in the area.

Outnumbered in their fight, the leadership had to quickly make decisions to gain the upper hand on the situation and minimize any further civilian deaths.

“It was chaos; zombies were flanking to our left and right,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Sweeney, senior enlisted adviser to the commander, Task Force Protector HHC. “We had to act fast and we knew that breaking down into small kill-teams would allow us to maneuver and outsmart the enemy.”

Nothing says “warfighter” quite like a bunch of military police from the headquarters company. Of course, they weren’t really zombies. Everyone knows that zombies aren’t real. Unless you’ve eaten bath salts.

This simulated situation was a scenario Sweeney presented to his soldiers as they participated in a Zombie Range Competition to boost morale during their nine month deployment.

Soldiers organized into teams and volunteered to compete against each other. The teams identified and engaged zombie targets while communicating with their team members.

Staff Sgt. Daniel R. Hernandez, strength manager, Task Force Protector, engages a zombie target at the last station, as 1st Sgt. Michael Sweeney, senior enlisted adviser to the commander, Task Force Protector Headquarters and Headquarters Company, looks on at the Zombie Range Competition here June 12, 2012. (via DVIDS)

That kind of innovative effort had to come from some real depth of training experience.

“I had a dream after watching ‘The Walking Dead’ where I was fighting off a zombie hoard,” said Capt. Jolene Ayres, commander, Task Force Protector HHC. “At the same time, I was thinking of a unique way to boost the morale of the company involving a little fun while incorporating some tactical level training.”

Well dreams are pretty good, too. Some of Steve’s best ideas have come about when he’s had a really great dream, and everyone that worked for me always thought those ideas were the best.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: this doesn’t sound very realistic. Zombies? But the TF Protector leadership team, innovative as always, had come up with truly inventive ways to keep the training as realistic as possible.

Soldiers were issued 20 rounds of ammunition to engage targets at three stations. At the first station, soldiers had to side-step to the next station while engaging a zombie target surrounded by civilian targets. Points were deducted by an observer for stopping forward movement, shooting more than the allotted six rounds, or engaging the civilian targets.

Once the team members made it to the second station, soldiers had to engage a zombie target using seven rounds in a kneeling, supported position. Points were taken at this station for not putting the weapon on safe after shooting the allotted rounds. The last station was a kneeling, unsupported shooting position requiring the soldier to expend the last of his or her seven rounds.

You know what makes this so realistic? The number of rounds they had…20 and 7. 27 rounds is exactly the number that CPT Steve always carried in his two magazines. The 7 round “mag” (that’s what us warfighters call them) he put in his pocket, and the 20 round mag was always in his weapon. There were times when CPT Steve wondered why he didn’t get more rounds like the other soldiers on his FOB, but I’m sure the leadership there had really good reasons for that. Plus your friendly PAO always got the one M4 that wouldn’t clear until you fired it at least three times into the clearing barrel. Tricky things, those M4s, you know?

Plus, I’m super relieved to learn that they’re teaching these HHC warriors how to put their weapons on safe after firing the allotted number of rounds. In all the movies Steve has watched about war, the one thing that always bothered him was that people weren’t putting their weapon on safe again. And it was all really super duper valuable.

“Rarely do we get an opportunity to provide an alternative method of training,” said Ayres. “The combination of zombie targets, Rules of Engagement scenarios, target discrimination, precision fires with an emphasis on shooting, and moving and communicating is valuable training,” she explained. “The zombie targets doubled as a method for the company to let off some steam while the competition promoted team building, advanced rifle marksmanship skills and esprit de corps,” said Ayres.

You know who I really feel sorry for? All those soldiers who don’t get the chance to have these kinds of alternative methods of training. Those poor souls are all too busy shooting at actual Taliban, when they could be at the MP HHC having fun shooting at zombies. I bet those infantry guys sure are jealous!

So remember, all of you, show me your warface, and once you’ve shot off that seventh round, put your safety on! And make sure that infantry guy next to you who’s probably still shooting does the same thing. He’ll thank you for it.

Until next time, you stay sunny, Kabul!