Assumption of Command

23 June 2005

New Nickname

Every time you enter a military Dining Facility in Iraq, you have to walk through a little room that has sinks for hand washing. They are here to keep soldiers healthy by keeping germs and other bad things from spreading to others in the DFAC. I wish I could tell you all of the other bad things that could be spread around, but I am not smart in those kinds of subjects. I just know there are some real bad ones that I don't want my troops getting.

This room has plenty of sinks and soap and paper towels so there is no excuse not to wash your hands and there is even a sign with DFAC rules and regulations that explicitly states that "everyone will wash their hands prior to entering the DFAC" but this doesn't seem to do the trick.

I am not normally a stickler for little rules like this, but things that could cause health problems to my troops, I will enforce.

So from time to time when I go to chow, I will see people who think they are better than the rules or figure that the 20 second it takes to wash up is just too much, will just walk through the hand wash room. That is until I stop them and tell them they must.

Being a Captain in these situations can be advantageous. Most of the time, the troops just make a quick U-turn and wash their hands with a quick "whoops". Rarely have I had to use my authority a bit more aggressively. I am not really interested in any feedback when I make a correction, but from time to time I have had to remind a soldier who they are talking too. I always say thank you when they do wash their hands.

All in all, I don't have problems with troops. Now the Civilian Contractors are a totally different story. These people (men and women) think because they are not in the Army, they do not have to follow the rules about anything. When I politely ask them to follow the posted policy I usually get the "you have a penis growing out of your forehead" look. Sometimes it doesn't take them long to figure out I am not joking. Others I have to go through this:

I get a variety of responses:
I just got out of the shower
yeah and I bet you dried your nasty rear end with your hands too. And you had to get in that dirty truck to get to the Chow Hall.
I washed them before I came over here
Whatever! There are very few places on this FOB to wash your hands. Did you wash them in this room? Wash them again!
but I am getting it to go
So! I don't want your grubby dirt diggers touching the serving spoons.
Why? Is there some sort of policy.
Read the sign... more like "here's your sign"
you are a (insert your favorite or not so favorite body part)
hey I asked nicely and you copped the attitude.

No matter how the conversation goes, the hands get washed and I have done my part to protect my troops from he spread of some nasty plague or something.

So by now you are probably asking about my new nickname. Have no fear, I haven’t forgot.

In this little room there is a Third Country Nation worker that is there to refill the towels and the soap and to clean up. Well this poor guy has witnessed enough of these little conversations to know who I am. This guy doesn't know English any better than I know Swahili, but just yesterday, with a big thumbs up and in a complementary manner, called me "Captain Handwash". I about fell over laughing but I guess it fits. :)

Update: The Story Continues