Thebastidge: Training the IA
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    Monday, March 10, 2008

    Training the IA

    My old boss had some observations on the challenges of training the Iraqi Army. My comments are available to read over there as well.

    Update:

    I sent the article that No Man's Blog references out to my coworkers:

    Me:

    Especially interesting from our point of view, as people who need to not only work with our Iraqi customers, but also providing opportunities for training even when that may not be the quickest and easiest route.

    There can be no true successes without the possibility of failure. It's also important to remember that not all failure is fatal. If one can learn from mistakes in a controlled environment, then it's not the catastrophe that sudden, unsupported independence would be.


    Co-worker:

    Easy for you to say! When you have to repeatedly tell these guys how to do something day after day, well, I default to the culture excuse and lack of initiative/caring..

    Doesn’t mean I don’t take a deep breath and explain it again...


    Me Again:

    Well, I meant it as a reminder to myself as well. It's very difficult to keep in mind sometimes. That's why I thought the article was pretty good. It points out the difficulties, and acknowledges the frustrations, acknowledging without excusing the Iraqi culture.

    3 Comments:

    Anonymous Stan said...

    Larry,

    Excellent comment! Thanks for the input. (It got caught in moderation for some reason, and I just approved it.)

    I was wondering if I was being too harsh, but now that you gave me your first-hand view of what's happening over there, I don't feel so bad at all.

    Thanks again.

    7:56 AM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    Well, Stan- it's not ALL bad news. There is progress. And I think of some of the stupid shit I saw in Korea which has had a lot longer exposure to Western cause-and-effect thinking. Like smoking while breathing from an oxygen cannula in the nose. It's backwards and everything is far more labour-intensive than it needs to be (much of it by deliberate design because zero-sum thinking has people trying to invent make-work to get paid rather than actually founding new enterprises.)

    It's amazing sometimes how resourceful these people can be at cheating, at dragging their feet, and honestly, they really can rig some shit up to work that you would never expect after watching them fuck things up that are easy, but it doesn't occur to them to do in a safe way, or repeatable fashion, or neatly.

    For example, everybody can pretty much fix a UPS circuit board for most common problems. They'll take it apart, solder some shit back together, and voila! it works. Americans by and large would throw it away and get another one, but Iraqis have had enough experience with bad power that anybody who could afford electronics delicate enough to need a UPS, has experience fixing them. A lot of Iraqis can rig up a solar cell installation, or build a ciruit for a transfer switch when grid power goes down.

    But the same guys will cut the end off a power cord when it doesn't match the receptacle style, and stick the bare-ass wire ends into the outlet, and jiggle it around until the LEDs on the outlet strip light up. Or run 220v power over a CAT5 network cable by twisting 4 of the 8 strands together for each side of the circuit, and sticking that into an outlet. They'll get tired of people stealing fuel, so they'll weld a padlock hasp on over the cap on a tank full of fuel. It's all inshallah- no sense of cause and effect in the small things in life.

    11:36 PM  
    Blogger Larry said...

    This is not even to mention the more physical engineering. Our new villa for example:

    There's no ventilation, the showers ar eopen to the entire bathroom (no enclosure or curtain, and the drain in the floor doesn't even have a slope. We specificed p-traps in the drains, but my bathroom always smells like urine when I come back after it has been shut for a while, until I run the water or flush the toilet a couple more times. The septic tank (because there is no central waste water system in Baghdad at all and never has been) in our new villa just collapsed in- it has been occupied less than a month. When they built the septic system there, they put a plastic tank in the groun with no retaining walls around it. Then a concrete cap over it, with a man-hole access. Then a brick wall on the edge of that cap.

    All's well and good as it fills up. Then a little water from rain, a little water from trying to grow grass on the lawn. Still all good.

    The first time the truck comes to pump it out: crack crack crak creak groan, and the wall starts to fall over. WTF?

    All the loose fill dirt turned to mud and crushed the tank from the side as soon as it was emptied (and became essentially a deflated balloon.) Then the concrete cap, (which was only about a foot larger on each side than the plastic tank) crushed the tank from the top, then the wall on top of that, started tipping outward as the concrete pad tilted sideways into the abyss.

    Some boards were quickly brought into play to keep the wall from falling completely over, but that didn't work, and it was now titled about 30 degrees. so now the yard is all torn up AGAIN for a new tank, which actually went in amazingly quickly, dug entreily by hand with picks and shovels by an ant-hive of guys.

    And now it has sat there for almost 5 days with no visible movement towards comepleting and covering it.

    The frustration sometimes gets even higher because you see the potential of what they're capable of, if they just took some personal responsibility and gave a shit, with a little planning and foresight thrown in.

    11:50 PM  

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