Those PSD Teams – May 2007

Today is the first time that I’ve traveled with an Erinys PSD team based out of Headquarters. Comparing them to our own teams down south, I am not impressed.


Good morning … my name is Pete and your driver today is Leo. We’re traveling today in a three vehicle convoy, all of them white Land Cruisers. Should we run into any trouble today, you’ll hear us shout Down! Down! Down! Immediately get below the level of the glass. Should our vehicle be hit we’ll roll through the contact area. The other vehicles will pull up in such a way as to create a triangle of protection – a ring of steel, if you will. Stay inside the vehicle with the doors closed. Wait for one of us to come get you to cross-deck you to another vehicle: don’t fight us, let us move you – we won’t be gentle. If it’s not a white man trying to grab you, do your best not to go with him. If one of the other vehicles should be immobilized, be ready for a few large white men [wearing and carrying an extra 70+ pounds worth of armaments and ammunition] to come hurtling onto your lap. Josh is the team medic and he’ll be riding in the lead vehicle. Each vehicle has a trauma med kit: ours is stashed here (point). We’re traveling with a transponder (point); if our vehicle should become disabled, push the red button. That will alert the comms center that we’ve been hit. Cold drinks are in the cooler; sweets here (point) if anyone feels the need. Any questions? Right. Helmet on, safety glasses on, gloves on at all times. Ready? Right, let’s roll.

Two clear.

Having heard this at least a hundred times, I often tune out the brief while I mess with helmet, gloves, camera or project files. If I listen it’s only to find out where the med kit is stashed, and to more accurately mimic the Brit accents later when Crowsie and I are clowning around.

This time the HQ PSD team leader, Pete, caught my attention as he finished the brief because as he added, pointing at me, And no screaming. It’s very distracting.

The two men in the back seat laughed. I smiled politely, covering my surprise and irritation at this unusual example of sexist crap. I pointed at the men behind me. They’re more likely to scream than I am, I told the man. My colleagues cheerfully agreed, adding that if anything happened, they planned on pulling me on top of them for protection.

We proceeded to the arming station, an area near the outer Brit gate where the PSD teams and military load and clear weapons. While we waited there for the gun truck to catch up, I climbed out of the truck for a smoke with Drew, one of our own teams’ crew members who happened to be waiting there for the rest of his team, heading out on a different mission.

Pete wandered over to join us. So I guess you don’t get out much, he said as he lit my cigarette.

I laughed at his persistence. No, I said, successfully keeping my voice neutral, not much at all. Only three or four times a week.

Really, Pete said in a voice that made it clear he doubted the numbers.

Drew raised one eyebrow at me. Hey mate, he said to Pete, laughing, she gets more bang bang than you’ve seen. She was meeting with eight Iraqis while someone shot it up in the streets in Az Zubair yesterday. She’s on the road as much as we are.

I was, in fact, meeting with eight Iraqis while someone shot it up in the streets of Az Zubair yesterday, a useful bit to use in silencing patronizing HQ PSD men while having offered not a bit of danger to myself. The first shot went off just as I had just stepped out onto the roof of a health clinic. Though the shot sounded like it was at least a few blocks away, my guard politely tugged me backward through the doorway, just in case. Later, meeting with the contractors in a room downstairs in the same health center, a more sustained back and forth exchange of gunfire went off, lasting fifteen or twenty seconds. The construction managers and I ignored it, continuing our discussions. I stayed another half an hour to conclude business, and left without incident. The shooting was likely a celebration – a wedding, a new baby, a funeral.

Pete looked blankly at me for a moment while Drew’s deceptively mild words sunk in. He shot a quick, cautious look back at Drew who was glaring at him, then wisely withdrew to the other side of the truck.

What the hell was that? Drew asked me.

Same old crap, different man, I told him with a shrug. Thanks.

Well, he muttered, still irritated, we put an end to that patronizing twitter.

We flapped a hand at each other and walked back to our respective wagons.

The HQ PSD teams complain that their clients treat them like shit …. I can’t imagine why.

It’s kind of nice to have an armed personal guard like Drew watching my back in more ways than one. Just think of all the useful applications of a good PSD man back in the Real World … no more panhandlers harassing me on the streets; no more self-absorbed assholes bugging me in bars; no more smiling politely to defuse those stray insults.


[I still miss my Basrah PSD teams … 2009]



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