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Past Life – Somalia #1

Mortarmen in SomaliaSorry, this post isn’t about photography or programming.

For those of you that don’t know me very well, which I would assume is most of you, I spent the early 90s as an Infantryman in the U.S. Army. Specifically I was an 11c Indirect Fire Infantryman, which means I fired mortars for a living. During that time as a member of the 10th Mountain Division I went many places and did many things, both in training and “real-world” deployments.

In 1993 my battalion deployed to the lovely seaside country of Somalia. That’s me on the left in the picture above, taken by a fellow squad member on the dunes on the Somali coast. Over the course of this blog I’ll post about various life lessons I’ve learned over the years, including several during my time in Somalia. Don’t worry, I won’t post anything that’s graphic.

One lesson I learned was that the policy of gunners on crew-served weapons (like mortars) carrying only a pistol kinda sucked when in real-world situations. In training it was great, you got to carry a pistol in a holster and be all cool.

When your convoy comes under fire from an unknown number of assailants armed with AK-47s and you realize all you have is a pop gun, your whole view on life changes. Anyone that has been in a situation like that and says they didn’t feel fear is lying, maybe even to themselves. 19 years later and I can still feel it like I was there.

It’s no coincidence that less than 18 months later the Army’s standard equipment was changed to replace the M-9 pistol with the M-4 Carbine (kind of a shorter M-16). Just one of many things the soldiers that went to Iraq and Afghanistan owe thanks to us older veterans for. Too bad they don’t even know.