Wednesday, December 29, 2004

In to Iraq

I received identical emails today from two Oregon people who shoot in competition. They have text from an email that someone (six degrees of separation) knows someone who ... well, you know how it works when texts are forwarded without editing. I don't know the source of this post, and I can't vouch for its veracity. But it does have the ring of truth.

Here's everything I received, edited only to get rid of the ">>>" characters at the beginning of each line, and paragraphs formatted as seemed appropriate:

This is from a co-worker that used to work at the Oregon State Penitentiary. He quit and took a job in Iraq for far more than he made with the state. But as you read through his first day you will soon see that he is going to earn every tax free dollar. This is good reading and gives you a look from an average persons perspective on their first day in country.

Subject: In to Iraq.

E-mail for non-family members. 24 December 2004 (Christmas Eve)

Wild times to say the least.

From Kuwait to Iraq is via a C-130 where everyone wears body armor and a helmet. The ballistic plates make the vest very heavy, but once on it rides pretty good. Helps provide a safer feeling.

I sat next to a young, air force security soldier who told me he volunteered to go to Jordan where they will pick-up Iraqi soldiers being trained there and return them to Iraq. His job is like an air marshal on an airline. He has an M-16 and a 9 m/m if any of the Iraqi's try to take over the plane.

Coming into BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) the two rear air crew harness themselves into the side windows and watch intensely for rockets.

Then the roller coaster begins.
We go up and down, side to side, and spiral for a landing. I have never experienced such G force nor looked out a window and see sand and street and then instantly roll to see the sun.

We land with a thump.
The world is now different. Everyone has at least one gun but the faces are of teenagers.

We missed the last helicopter to Baghdad (no one drives the road as its too dangerous) so we ride the Rhino to Camp Striker to spend the night in a large tent of cots. The Rhino is a mobile home that has armor plating and bulletproof glass.

We walk ¼ mile to the chow hall and its great food. Hundreds of soldiers eat at once trying to eat and find a place for their helmets & guns. Little women carrying rifles almost as big as them.

The next morning we ride the Rhino and are briefed about our flight on the Blackhawk helicopters. Luggage in one and passengers in another. I sit next to one of the door gunners as we fly 100 yards above the city. Low and fast. It's a dry, dusty worn out city with lots of cars and trucks.

We land at the Steel Dragon which a fortified landing area for helicopters.

We are bused to a pick-up area where Air Force drug dogs give our bags the once over. We then are met by two guys who drive us to the An Naan (sp?) to an area of tents surrounded by sand bags. Really poor conditons as told by the police trainers living there. I am rescued when one of the guys driving another SUV tells me that corrections doesn't live here and he will drive me and the other corrections guy to a pick-up area to meet our ride.

We are met by a SUV and three armored Humvees with roof mounted machine guns. I am told that I will never move about Baghdad without an army security escort.

I am in the lead Humvee since there are too many people for the SUV.

The roof gunner apologizes for his language in advance but states its necessary.

We pull out of the Green Zone and it's a ride that no one will ever believe.
The Humvee is floored and heaven help anyone getting in the way. I now know what it is like being in a crazy criminals car being chased by the police on city streets. There is no room but that doesn't stop the driver who just gives it more gas and barely misses everything. The roof gunner is yelling "Get out of the way____ ____!" and pointing his M-16 at them to intimidate them away. We are like an emergency vehicle going thru traffic in that they are to pull to the side of the road. But there is no room in the crowded third world traffic jam that we bust thru.

We stop at a prison to pick up some staff to go to the hotel with the caravan, as their day is over. My Humvee blocks the middle of the road pointing the medium caliber machine gun at all cars coming down the road to intimidate they to turn around. One taxi keeps coming and coming. He is coming right for us and the gunner racks a round into the chamber of the machine-gun yelling for him to stop. He is about to open fire when the taxi stops and makes a U-turn. The soldiers were real nervous about it.

Now we charge into the traffic again enroute to the Al Sadeer hotel where we live. Any back seat driver would be crying by now as it is the most exhilarating ride I have ever been on. Just as we slow to make a hairpin turn the gunner is screaming and a shot if fired from an M-16 by the gunner behind us. A car was advancing on us and wouldn't stop so they fired at the vehicle. The lieutenant stated later that now all his gunners have fired on vehicles. If the first shot doesn't get a response then they use deadly force on the driver.

We come to the hotel and I can tell it is guarded by Kurds. A very handsome looking people. The area is surrounded by a 12-foot concrete wall with shooting positions on the roof and wall manned by security personnel.

Each door into the hotel has one or two AK-47 armed security persons who are very friendly. I don't have to live in a tent but a 5 star hotel. At least it was a 5 star once upon a time. It beats a tent.

And that was just the first day.

Since Friday is the Sabbath for Muslims I have the day off and also Saturday due to it being a holiday.

I walk to the roof the next morning to see the city and smoke a cigar, two shots ring out from the street below. A passing car to let us know that they are out there. After breakfast we walk to a self-service laundry thru "technicals" (pick-ups with machine-guns in back) manned by Kurds on their way out on patrol. About 40 of them and they look all business. I'm to be issued a Colt M-4 .223 carbine and a Beretta 9 m/m the day after Christmas since everything is shut down for the holiday.

I'm to tour the local prisons to include Abu Grab (sp?) to see the conditions. Their not sure just what I'll be doing since so much is up in the air.

At least I get free email from the hotel and 10 minutes on the telephone to family plus free meals. What could be better!

Till later,

Bob Cope

Aka Baghdad Bob

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

IPSC-relevant commentary: Malfunctioning Firearm

Merry Christmas is past, and I've been a Bad Boy. I've been eating too much, spending an unconscionable amount of time with my family (which included a lot of time driving up and down I-5), and generally doing everything except updating this blog.

I spent Sunday and Monday nights trying to feel guilty about not posting, and it didn't take until tonight.

Okay, I feel guilty. I guess my vacation from pseudo-life is past, lost in the Real World. Now I'm "Stuck In Lodi Again", if Corvallis can be considered Lodi North (and I think it is).

In the meantime, I've built up that ol' mental pressure to an acceptable pseudo-life operating level, and I've Got Something To Say.

I've had some time to rethink my interpretation of the IPSC/USPSA competition rule 10.4.9 concerning Accidental Discharge, so if you're not interested in Practical Pistol competition you can skip this one.

Earlier, I had some tentative interpretations of this rule which led me to wonder why, if a competitor has a broken gun and is unable to continue, he should be penalized all the points he might have accumulated on a stage before his gun broke. It seemed to me that it conflicted with all the 5.7.* rules, which said that a competitor who was unable to continue due to an equipment malfunction should have all hits scored, penalties deducted, and his stage hit factor calculate in the usual way. (See Rule 5.7.3)

However, rule 10.4.9 deals with the specific situation when an Accidental Discharge occurs. In every other case, that would be ipso facto grounds for a Match Disqualification (DQ). In this case, the rule book recognizes that the competitor has not violated a safety rule so there are no grounds for a DQ.

My guess is that the authors of the current rule book are looking at the rules in the last rule book version (USPSA Rule Book, 14th Edition 2001, US rule This rule is part of the general subsetion 10.3 dealing with Unsafe Gun Handling, and perhaps is inappropriately placed here because the specific rule stipulates that the Accidental Discharge is NOT due to unsafe gun handling.

Maybe that's why they stipulate zeroing the scores for that stage, and allowing the competitor to continue after having repaired his firearm. After all, they COULD have kicked you out of the match on the grounds that you've experienced an Accidental Discharge. Instead, they only kick you off the stage. You can always come back and compete in the rest of the match.

I've drawn some conclusions from all of this introspection:
(1) If a rule exists in the 'old' version, it is justifiable to include it in the 'new' version of the rule book ...
(2) ... even if it may have applied excessive and unjustifiable penalties in the first place.
(3) Therefore, the rule 10.4.9, while it appears to be inappropriatly in variance with the 5.7.* rules, is acceptable because HEY! Nobody complained about it last year, we had our chance, screw us.
(4) Maybe it's time to revisit this rule and decide whether, if the competitor didn't do anything worthy of a DQ, the Range Officer (RO) should screw him anyway by zeroing the stage.
(5) No, it's not the RO's fault. He's gotta live with the existing rules, as the competitor is required to compete in accordance with them.
(6) While those guys were busily inventing new rules that don't always make sense, they might have found time to revisit some of the old rules and correct the ones that already didn't make sense.
(7) No way they're gonna do that, unless IPSC members scream to high heaven every time they run up against this kind of competitive roadblock

If you're dinged under 10.4.9, write your Area Director. Write your Regional Director. While you're at it, write your Section Coordinator, the Match Director, the Regional Director, and every IPSC member whose email address you have. Maximum exposure is a Good Thing.

But do NOT, under any circumstances, scream at the RO who dinged you. He's just doing his job, and he has absolutely no choice here. Don't arbitrate, because you'll lose and it will cost you the arbitration fee which you can't afford anyway.

Just ... figure you're not going to win the match, go get your gun fixed, and do good on the rest of the stages of the match.

Oh, and talk to your gunsmith.