Protecting Advisors

The bad news out of Afghanistan won’t stop. It’s like the longest nightmare ever and we just can’t wake up.

After seven green-on-blue attacks in the last eleven days, Gen John Allen has ordered all ISAF troops stationed on Afghan bases to remain armed at all times. The story does not specify if this order requires forces to be Condition 3 (magazine inserted, chamber empty) or Condition 1 (magazine inserted, round in chamber, weapon on safe).

When I last wrote about the green-on-blue problem in April, I wondered about this specific issue. Many observers will wonder why this order was such a long time coming, myself among them. But I think it would be a mistake to conclude that these pernicious attacks will be stopped simply because advisors are keeping their weapons loaded. To draw such a conclusion is akin to saying a movie theater patron with a concealed weapon would have stopped James Holmes before he killed twelve people.

I don’t recall a specific order from my team leader or our higher headquarters about our weapons condition. We were issued an M-4 carbine and an M-9 pistol as advisors. I carried both on the 200m walk from the advisor compound to my office. The advisor building was a windowless building located amongst the Iraqi office buildings. We had one entrance, with a high table just inside the door and sandbags stacked underneath. We kept two M240B machine guns nearby, I guess in case the Iraqis decided to lay siege to our building.

I never went to see my counterparts without my M-9 in Condition 1 status. Never. And this was in Iraq where the insider threat was much, much lower, maybe even nonexistent compared with the current situation in Afghanistan.

In the beginning, I tucked my utility blouse behind my hip holster so that the weapon could be easily seen, and reached. I tried to sit at the table with my back to a wall so that I could see everyone in the room and anyone who entered. After a couple months, once I got to know everyone (and some modicum of trust was established), I began covering my holster with my blouse. I sat with my back to the door. I let my guard down. Not so much that I was totally oblivious to my surroundings, but I definitely wasn’t constantly “at the ready.”

I’d like to think that I could have reacted quickly enough to save my life had someone walked in with a loaded AK and started spraying bullets indiscriminately. But the truth is I’m not sure that’s the case. The USMC taught me how to aim and fire the M-9 with lethal consistency, but it didn’t teach me how to draw like Doc Holliday. Not that it would have mattered–the aggressor in these attacks has the advantage.

Gen Allen’s order is welcome news, and long overdue. But we should temper our expectations about it making a significant difference in the lethality of green-on-blue attacks. Far more important than weapon status is the advisor’s mental alertness. Regular troops are used to keeping their guard up outside the wire, but everyone needs a place where they can let it down and recharge. At this point, ISAF advisors aren’t afforded this luxury. This obviously takes a toll over the course of a six- or twelve-month deployment.

Carrying a Condition 1 weapon is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for better protecting advisors. Hopefully, it will save some lives. But it wouldn’t surprise me if our advisors were abiding by Gen Allen’s order long before he issued it.

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7 Responses to Protecting Advisors

  1. Ty Mayfield says:

    We’re in a sticky situation for sure here with the continued rise of Green on Blue attacks and others now that are obviously “insider” jobs by people who gain access but are not vetted members of the ANSF. This problem is not going to go away anytime soon and I’m waiting for the problem to escalate from one of individual actors to the next level. That will significantly change the nature of the game. There is a significant trust problem and these attacks are not helping.

    As horrible as the Green on Blue attacks are, we’ve got significant problems that need immediate attention. More than 9 X as many troopers in the US military killed themselves in July of 2012 as were lost in the entire coalition to Green on Blue attacks.

  2. Ron says:

    True enough, I never knew a MiTT who did not carry their pistol in Condition 1.

    Never understood the military’s fear of weapons or why they didn’t get going from 3,4 to 1 and back so often because of fear of NDs made for more NDs than just leaving them 1.

  3. Jimmy Sky says:

    One of the things that that Air Force (or maybe just my career field) did right was that we always carried our M9′s in Condition 1 Granted, I never heard it referred to in that manner until I worked with the Army. In 7 years of active duty, the only place that I *didn’t* carry my M9 in Condition 1 was when I was attached to an army unit in Iraq and that was only after the base commander issued written guidance prohibiting us from keeping a round in the chamber.

    • David Bruce Lackey says:

      Yep. USAF is like that. And the United States Army Air Corps was just the same.
      Keep ‘em flying— and keep the Formation High, Wide, and Handsome.

      As they used to say, in the darkest days of the Second Thirty Years’ War. As Prof. Eugene Webers has remarked. A turning point in Western Civilization.


  4. George P. Burdell says:

    Heck, I carry a Glock 23 in Condition 1 on the streets of Atlanta, which are probably more dangerous than Kandahar.

  5. Patrick Trescott says:

    While working at the Al Udied AF Base in Qatar, I was surprised that the Air Force required that an airman (officer & enlisted) fill out a form that confirmed that “he had no history of spoucal abuse” before he was issued a M-9 or a M-4 Carbine to fly into the war zone. This really suprised me that they woulde send someone into a combat zone unarmed being an ex Marine.

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