T-one week

Sunday June 29 8pm
I walked by the Iraqi Embassy near Dupont Circle where I’ve been crashing with friends for the past month. I stared at the Arabic until my eyes glazed over letting the reality set in that in a mere week I will be on the flip side: in the US Embassy in Iraq.

I take a bite of Mr. Yogato—that and TangySweet have become one of my favorite evening American pleasures—and squeeze my friend’s hand soaking in the support of my family and friends that seems to conduct through his palm.

I am so blessed to be covered in prayers and anointing for this contract assignment.

Today was a much needed decompression. The past week was FACT training, Foreign Affairs Counter Threat Course, conducted at a West Virginia raceway. I was certified in evasive driving, gun familiarization, surveillance and medical training.

I was assigned to a crown vic with an instructor and 2 other students. Exercises included basic driving maneuvers such as gunning the car to 80mph and slamming on the breaks, swerving through cones in an S formation driving forwards and in reverse at high speed. Skid pad scenarios where we would skid out of control & regain composure quickly without doing doughnuts. The best time on the skip pad was in an armored suburban. Many, many walks down West Exec I wondered what it would be like to get one of those suburbans on a skid pad. Yes, it’s awesome.

I also drove a humvee & learned ramming! Should a car sit in front of me as a road block and throwing the car in reverse and backing away at 40mph is not an option, by God, I’m ramming that car out of my way!

It’s a fairly simple driving maneuver, done at low speed as to not cause massive damage to my own vehicle. I was volunteered by an instructor to go first. As I buckled into my crash car—and old blue Cadillac with custom Dallas Cowboys interior—I put the car in Drive and begin moving towards the vehicle perpendicular to my own ride. “RAM!” I hear the instructor yell. I gas & the car spins 180º & I am driving on the other side, away from the blocked road.

The car is pushed back into a position blocking the road, the “RAM!” Command comes before I am ready, I throw the car in reverse, gun the gas & the blockade spins 180º out of my way and I am back to the starting line. Presenting my driving certificate can apparently offer an auto insurance discount when I get back to the states.

Adrenaline high our class headed into the classroom for explosive familiarization. We see an actual car blown up using 8 ounces of explosive. To put 8 ounces in perspective, ½ lb. of explosive powder can fit in a cigarette pack.

It was a sobering firework display.

Cultural training was informative and covered basic conversational language phrases. I can say hello, goodbye, introduce myself & Praise God!

My instructor was extremely knowledgeable, however, the tone of the class---think of the most monotone professor you learned from in college, that was Jerry. Eight hours a day for 4 days. I absorbed as much of Iraqi history from 790 AD to present as possible catching my head at the startling weight of my head realizing omg! I just dosed off about 100 times a day. (And this is why law school is still on the backburner)

I feel totally prepared for worst case scenarios, though 'In Sha' Allah! (God Willing) I will not be caught in the midst of any exploding cars or Sunni Shi’a brawls.

Will fill you in on my first week in the IZ soon.