NewYears IED

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Don't do anything stupid, like get yourself killed.

That was the second rule Lieutenant Dan gave Forrest Gump when they met for the first time in Vietnam. The first rule? Take care of your feet.

I experienced war from a humvee, but I understand Lt. Dan's point.

You yourself have to do certain things that, at the very least, give you the best chance to survive. The Smbrs in Nam had to hump themselves all over that country and if you have ever tried to be situationally aware when your feet are jacked up, you know why it's important.

The equivalent rule in Iraq was vehicle spacing throughout the convoy. To understand why vehicle spacing was so important let me tell you a bit about the IED that ripped through Voodoo 1143's humvee on Dec 31,2006.

We got hit by what's called an explosively formed projectile or EFP. An EFP is a concaved copper plate placed at the top of an explosive charge. At ignition, the copper turns molten and the blast sends the metal at the target at a rate of 8,000 meters per second.

This relatively simple weapon ripped through our truck with ease.

As you can see from these pictures, not only was 4.5 inches of the best armor not enough--8 inches, even 10 inches, wouldn't have been enough. Look again at the image of the main penetration: that piece of molten copper was aimed right at the drivers door and had it been my time, I'd have been a goner.

So, back to spacing.....

The bad guys liked to daisy chain IEDs like this together. Their goal was to kill as many of us as possible so they would place the road side bombs in such a way as to take out multiple trucks in one shot. This tactic was often followed by ambushes, sniper attacks and other guerrilla tactics.

What LT Dan's rule to Gump was meant to do was give him a fighting chance to survive.

Spacing out our humvees during a mission followed the same principle. Good spacing gave more of us a fighting chance to survive an ambush, adjust, move on the objective and efficiently remove said objective from this planet, HOOAH.

Now the second rule: don't do anything stupid like get yourself killed makes a lot of sense in the context of war because the simplest things like not taking care of your feet or not spacing your vehicle could get you killed.

Driving to close to the vehicle ahead of you in a convoy was stupid and if you did it, it could kill you. Simple. Easy rule to follow. Stupid could equal death. Don't be stupid. Roger that. Wilco. HOOAH.

I became a master over the 300 missions VooDoo 1143 went on over the course of a year at keeping a good interval between our truck and the one ahead.

What I noticed was that driving this way required the use of four techniques: acceleration, coasting, deceleration and coasting.

You see, I had to get good at keeping my spacing over and through a wide variety of terrain so just slowing down and speeding up wasn't enough. I became very sensitive to how far my acceleration would take me and then coast based on the terrain to keep my distance without having to slam on the brakes. This took practice, but I mastered it.

Now I know it's only by the grace of the Divine that the EFP didn't kill me, but I was coasting at the moment it hit. If I hadn't been, well........

I follow this same pattern of driving as a civilian.

This is a vastly different style than how I used to drive and is also vastly different from the way everyone around me drives.

While most drivers in DC are pressing up the tail pipe of any vehicle in front of them, I'm making space. While traffic on beltway is bumper to bumper at any time day or night and frantic drivers are constantly speeding up to slow down, I'm trying to keep my spacing and find the rhythms of traffic that allow me to handle a potentially volatile situation with ease.

Now, if I told a civilian that not keeping their spacing was stupid and liable to get them killed, they'd look at me like I had a phallus sticking out of my forehead.

Here it is again--I brought this up last week. When the imminent threat of death is in your face all the time, a simple rule like spacing is very significant; however, as a civilian the threat doesn't seem so great. What does spacing matter as a CVLN?

And there it is my brothers and sisters at Arms, this weeks training.

How you drive is an expression of what is going on inside you.

So on your way back from your trip out of normal and into nature to find your breath, watch how you drive and look at it in relation to your breath.

Your inhale is the gas, your exhale is the break. But don't forget the space in between!

Remember the breath is your first tool you look to in order to make space between you and that edge. It is your first resource for Armoring Down.

When you can settle and watch your breath, your situational awareness will go up.

Settle your vehicle in the middle lane. Watch how the vehicles around you race by in order to get where they are going one minute faster than the next guy.

Watch your emotions. I friggen hated getting passed in the old days. It was an affront to my manhood.

Now I chill. I find the flow and I get where I am going with ease.

Doing something stupid in War could get you killed quick, as a CVLN the same rule applies, the consequences are just slower to form.

The 11th stanza of the Art of Peace, by founder and creator of the Martial Art Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba is:


  1. Great Blog Ben! I am a 10 year Air Force vet and am currently a contractor in Afghanistan. I have been in and out of the Centcom Aor for most of my adult life. I just want to say tango for your service and keep the awesome posts coming.

  2. Technology is pretty incredible. Thanks for reaching out, Bill. So glad to have made your acquaintance. Stay loose over there, partner. I hope you find time to relax a bit. Again, thanks for reaching out. HOOAH.