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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Concentric Rings in the Desert - Kuwait 1991


3RRF and 127 (Dragon) Battery ended up staying in Kuwait after the Gulf war was over for reasons I won't go into. During this time I was tasked to send some of my men back into Iraq to pick up ammunition that we had ground dumped.

On the day in question my guys had their trucks lined up by the highway waiting to deploy, at the same time the highway was busy with convoys redeploying back to Saudi Arabia to prepare for the return trip home.

As I was watching my men I could see that their morale was very low, indeed as was mine, because I suspect like them I did not want to stay any longer than I had too, all I wanted to do was go home and see my wife and kids.

I started to think to myself how can I pick up their morale? I could not give them any money and say here go down the pub, there were none or why not head of to town for a while, again there were none to be found.
Something extreme was called for.

So on an impulse I stepped out from my camouflage net and I shouted over to them "what’s wrong with you bunch of miserable looking f***ers". They looked at me startled, I guess wondering what the hell I was on about.

So I shouted again look you lot, "do you know what, not one of you is big enough to take me on" again they looked startled. Then little Robo stepped forward and said he would take me on, I replied "is that it, you send out the smallest guy you can find, you bunch off w***ers".

At that moment they looked around at each other and collectivity they said "let's get him" as they ran towards me I ran into my truck and looked myself in laughing at them calling them names, the truck rocked from side to side as they tried to open the doors, some climbed onto the cab roof and tried to rip open the canvas covering the commanders hatch.

Eventually they succeeded in dragging me out of the cab, throwing me to the desert floor they jumped on me and proceeded to kick the crap out of me, in playful way but enough to let me know they were willing to go there with me. In fact some stuck the boot in quite hard perhaps that was payback for something, who knows and I did not really care, as I gave them permission to do it anyway.

After it was all over, we all had a good laugh about the situation and then they set off on their task, which I might add was not a pleasant one. One of the things they encountered out there was they saw eagles and other birds of prey on their migratory route, stopping to pick up limbs etc as a source of food.

So what’s my point here? Well about a week to two later I was heading into Saudi with my driver and a mate of mine was coming the other way, he flagged us down and as we pulled up alongside to each other, he had a BIG smile on his face and he said "I hear your guys kicked the shit out you, you knob etc, etc" and off he drove laughing in the way that squaddies do.

I looked at my driver smiling and said, "isn't that amazing, that the fight is still having a positive effect on people you where not even there weeks later".

This is clearly a case of extreme man management but now I believe it had real time therapeutic value. Would I have done that in peace time? Of course not, the extreme situation required an extreme answer, it could have gone badly wrong who knows, all I cared about was the welfare of my men and that's all I had available to me at the time and I would do it again or at least something similar.

I have shared this story with civilian managers who had real trouble understanding it, but still, why should they understand, there is no need for them to understand.

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