Engineering and Body Armor
I found most amusing Mr. Spiri's question of "I wonder exactly what the recruiter tells the prospective enlistee when he signs him up for this job...?"
Recruiters don't talk folks into a particular MOS. That's the job of some counselor at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). Lord knows what they tell kids these days. They told me I'd play with explosives and work with land mines. I have, but that doesn't begin to address the fullness of the Essayons spirit. The Corps of Engineers is such a versatile outfit that you never know precisely what you'll be doing as a MOS 21B Combat Engineer. Route Clearance is a mission we are spending more and more time on, as Mobility is a traditional Engineer mission that has been adapted for the conditions in Iraq.
But basically, if it's too complicated for an infantryman, requires you to get out of your armored vehicle (disqualifying the tankers), and requires you to potentially see an enemy (disqualifying the cannon-cockers), we do it. No matter what it is. :) I've seen 21Bs build bridges (not our job--that's 21C), blow up houses, clear IEDs, patrol a sector, clear houses, raid villages, do ordnance destruction missions (technically EOD's job), set up Observation Points, build combat outposts, run CLIV points, rebuild Entry Control Points, serve on Small Kill Teams, dig fighting positions with earthmovers, knock down buildings with bulldozers (technically 21E or 21J, not B), and serve as clerks, armorers, supply sergeants, carpenters, mechanics, and truck drivers. Sometimes, all of the above within a space of 12 months.
Badger 6 now has an embed in his BN as well, a journalist from the Idaho State Journal, who apparently has been to Iraq before, according to his blog. Watch this space for more Engineering goodness.
And finally, Stars and Stripes is reporting some Marine unit has requested permission to start downgrading body armor. Wow. I mean, wow. If you haven't been over there, and suffered through the whole 'must upgrade armor' fetish the chain of command has, it's hard to explain. DAPs, Side SAPIs, ESAPIs, blahblahblah ad nauseum. I swear, some days you figure you'd be better off in a suit of Gothic plate.
It speaks volumes about how much quieter al-Anbar must be that the Marines are even considering this.