Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BAD Gear: Last Post from W Africa: Gear and thoughts

This will be BAD's last post from W. Africa for a while. BAD is heading domestic for some much needed R&R. Third-Location Decompression will happen at a spa retreat called Le Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara. Yes a f*cking spa. I get to claim that shit so why not get a big muthaf*cker reefing on my back muscles. And after that, within the calming and nice-smelling environment, they have this mineral grotto-styled pool that's suppose to do wonderful things for the epidermis. I don't know what, but my b@lls haven't fallen off yet.

They have something called Treetop dining. You're not really dining in a tree (although that would be pretty bad ass), you are, however, dining amongst the woody surroundings. I know the prices are a bit spendy at $45/BAD for all-you-can-eat tapas, but why the f*ck would BAD be working in far off places to make money for if he cannot spend it on fabulous small eats. I am no foodie, although I have relatives who are - and 10 out of 10 foodies will agree with me, this spa is the shizzle.

So what I do want to write about are lessons-learned with respect to gear in W Africa. I started my first mission into W. Africa late Q3 2011, and during that time it was rainy (read: floody) season. There's really only two seasons here: rainy, and haramattan - the latter being dry dusty hot searing sun season. So packing for these conditions required some consideration. Not only that, but I also needed to pack for all the work settings I would encounter.

What I will list are things I ended up keeping with me throughout my missions, and then I will list of things I left at home from my last rotation out.
Things I needed:
  • Surge Protector AC Adapter Bar with multi-national plug fitments. Surge protection is a must, there are lots of power outages, brownouts and surges. You need it to be a 220v/110v adapter because some electronics' adapters do not have this, requiring the need to down-tune your voltages in order to not fry some of your electronics.
  • Clippers. Shampoo is not cheap. Shaving your head is.
  • 'Fitted' cotton dress shirts.A shirt with rolled up sleeves, unbuttoned 1 button lower than normal, tucked into dark blue boot cut low rise denim, with leather shoes, and aviator ray-bans. Ultimate ex-pat blend. Don't wear fitted if you're fat. Don't wear skinny jeans either. You'll just look like a coffee barista.
  • Dark Blue Boot Cut Low Rise Denim Jeans. Versatile as hell, it can make you look professional and badass at the same time. Don't pay for the factory to make holes. Do that on your own
  • Fine grain leather shoes that are soft and supple, while providing good ankle support. I bought ankle-height side zip shoes from Aldo.
  • Vertx polos. Refer to previous post.
  • Ralph Lauren Polo polos. It's always classy to have something classy to wear for a classy event at a classy establishment to meet other classy people without giving away that you're not so classy.
  • Wifebeater, just one. I never wore it.
  • Moisture-wicking liner socks, lots of them. I was on my feet everyday with lots of walking, and socks aide in the body's cooling system.
  • IFAK. I built myself an extensive IFAK that included Rx/non RX meds for common ailments one would experience in W Africa. 
  • Prophylactic items like sunscreen, lipchap, etc. 
  • Chacos sandals with Vibram soles, Running Sneakers, Flipflops
  • T-shirts (none that say infidel or Porkeater - unless you want those looks that could get you fired, kidnapped, or shot)
  • Under armour workout clothes (the international symbol for serious workout ppl)
  • Lululemon long pants (the international symbol for Canadian)
  • EDC items and bag (multi tool, light, etc)
  • Arc'teryx Squamish Hoody (cause it rains like a mother here). Goretex won't work in these conditions.
  • iPad2 (for facetime and skype), Blackberry Playbook (for shits and giggles), work laptop, unlocked Blackberry Torch.
  • A chipped credit card, copies of ident, etc etc
  • Bolle Warrant sunglasses, Rayban aviators...
Things I did not need:
  • Gore-tex desert boots - too slippery when walking on slime covered wet shit (literally)
  • LEAF Arc'teryx Alpha Jacket - Gore-tex does not work here
  • Printed t-shirts that are offensive to over 50% of the indigenous population
  • Big Backpack that screams tactical
  • Basically anything that screams Tactical
  • (Obviously you need to wear whatever is appropriate for your mission/role)
The idea of being low-profile in my kind of work means that I am constantly changing my equipment. Its an ever-evolving process to go leaner, and more greyman. The idea of greyman is not new. Greyman is essentially the art of blending in to the environment whilst remaining tactically sound. In fact, one of the biggest barriers we former soldiers and current contractors face is how to stop being a "Show of Force" kind  of guy. Being a greyman will help you avoid hassle at the airport, or worse, being shot in the face by bad guys. You also don't want to look like you came out of an REI or MEC catalogue. That's another way that saavy badguys can determine your worth. "F*ck he's American, let's kidnap and ransom him..." You don't want to be "that guy." You do want to be like everybody and nobody at the same time (caveat being, if your mission/role is to be a Show of Force faceshooter, then bring on that escalating violence of action bitches!!!).

I totally understand that the tactical stuff is super comfy and it gives an air of presence; however when working in a country where there are active terrorist cells, the more lo-pro, the better. On the other end of the scale, one shouldn't wear red shoes when outside the wire (even if you have faceshoooters with akm's guarding your ass). That's just umm.....hipster. BAD does have a colleague who is of the hipster persuasion (not everybody is perfect). 

Hipster colleague does know how to tone down the hipsterness for work, in fact he's sort of bad ass. Hipster has been in W Africa for more years then he cares to remember. And because of this BAD can forgive his red shoes, and perfectly coiffed hair. 

So for now, BAD will be signing off until touchdown domestic side. I don't know what I'll do first, but I do know that near the top of the list will be eating, sleeping, spending copious amounts of money on things I don't need, and being with BAF. After a bit of rest, I will continue to review BAD gear that simply works for our BAF.

Word out!

2 comments:

  1. Great summary of the greyman principle. It even pays to practice that philosophy in a less overtly hostile environment. Keep up the great posts.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi badass dad!

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now and have a few questions I was hoping you could answer:

    1. What kind of a wallet does a badass dad use? I’ve never seen yours!

    2. Is conspicuously (but incongruously) carrying Chopin sheet music around the office / shuttle bus / restaurant badass? Cause I’ve seen this guy from Vancouver Island (which is apparently the epicenter of badassery) doing that.

    3. What kind of scuba equipment would you recommend for aquatic exploration with bad ass daughter?

    4. Do you know if they sell any of your recommended equipment in either Greenwich Village or Le Marais?

    Thanks!

    -Port Harcourt Hipster (PHH)

    ReplyDelete

Disclaimer

Full Disclosure: Unless noted, Bad Ass Dad has not been compensated in any means to review this gear. It is all his own, procured through pro-channels, retail, or issuance.