So the guard sent me to the Terrorism Research Center's Mirror Image course. This school is an 80 hour program designed to simulate a radical Sunni terrorist training camp, modeled after the Khalid bin Waleed training camps in Pakistan. The idea is to give you a crash course in Arab and Islamic cultural awareness, a brief on how to speak basic phrases in arabic and read arabic numbers, along with detailed studies on major terrorist attacks from Al-Quaeda, the IRA, Hamas, and other groups.
The school was at Camp Rilea from July 20th to July 25th. Upon arrival, they broke us up into cells, and handed out Shawlar Kamishes aka Mandresses to everyone. They're suprisingly comfortable, even with the annoyingly Jared-like pants.
We went down to the "Mosque" and was introduced to our cadre. The "emir" was a former marine who spends most of his time in Palestine, Afghanistan, and Iraq studying terrorist operations. He has a photographic knowledge of a lot of terrorist attacks, down to the names of the most peripherial entities. The "imam" had a masters in Arab Studies from Georgetown and a Certificate of Advanced Arabic Proficiency from Georgetown. He actually knew more about Islam and Arabic than the Iraqi who was taking the class.
We did the whole nine yards, Islamic prayer at 0515, terrorist operations as a cell, eating hummus. Hummus gives me terrible gas.
I was part of a 13 person cell. This included an E-6, two E-5s, three E-4s, an E-3, and a Captain from the same battalion S-2 shop from Ft. Lewis. There was an American working for an information research company, an Iraqi working for a private security company, a Marine Scout/Sniper, and a platoon leader from Charlie company. And I got selected as the Cadre leader. Dammit. Personality clashes abound.
The E-6 got named ops officer, and decided that she wanted the cell to be run like her battalion, with the S-3 running all the planning, and the leader rubber stamping things. At one point when I came to run my plan by her, she hands me a peice of paper and says "this is what we're doing." What the fuck. I wanted to run it like an infantry squad, seeing as we had 13 people, which is a lot closer to the 9 of a squad than the 400+ of a batallion.
There were some really fun missions. Most involved using sim rounds, which fire colored soap instead of hot lead, which is less dangerous and less painful, but you still know you've been hit. They also used some amped up paintball guns, as the wicked welt on my tricep attests. They also had a familiarization course on the AK-47. The AK is a simpler weapon to break down than my M-4, however, it's got kinda a cheap feel to it, and a block safety and charging lever that make the weapon pretty much designed for left handed firers. It's a real pain to try and use off the bat as a right handed shooter.
Among the guest speakers was former CIA agent, and author of Imperial Hubris and Marching Towards Hell, Michael Scheuer. While there are aspects of his ideas that I agree in, his complete amoralism is terrifying.
Aside from the knowledge I gained from the class, I also got to keep the Shalwar Kamish, a copy of the Quran, and a signed copy of Marching Towards Hell. Awesomesauce. I honestly think that everyone who is going to deploy to the middle east should take this course.