10 Skills Every Operator Should Have: Part 1 (of 10) – The Stick Shift

To Everyone under 25 – This is NOT an Xbox 360 Controller

*Note: I use the term “operator” loosely here

When the subject of “what are must-have operator skills” comes up most people spit out the obvious answers of guns, Ninja-fu and other shooter type tactical skills that first pops into mind when thinking about leaping out of a chopper in some 3rd world shit-hole.

But as much as being able to fire an AT-4 naked or reloading an AK with one arm blown off may be great skills for shooters, they are actually some of the least used skills unless you are some sort of Tier-1 SF or OGA guy.

When I first started in the Overseas Security Contracting biz back in the day I thought the only skills I needed to know was how to shoot, loot, chew on cigars and say cool catch lines like “Its gona’ be a long day”.

But after working in places like Iraq, Indonesia, Thailand and Kurdistan for the past decade I ended up using way more mundane skills like sewing my clothing than the exciting shit like strapping C4 under a bridge while wearing a black stocking cap.

So I put together a list of some of the less obvious skills that every operator should have, no matter if you are running the roads in Iraq or Afghanistan or surviving a natural disaster with your family, this is the shit you really need to know how to do.

10 Skills Every Operator Should Have

#1 Know How to Drive a Stick Shift

I was on a contract in Iraq a few years ago when the boss came to me with the usual “we got a new guy, wet behind his ears like a mother-fucker, learn him up cuz’ he is on your team”.

This dude was 24, ex-Army (no trigger-time) but a pretty bright kid and seemed Non-Douchebagey so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and put him through the usual routine of the ‘new-guy’ BS errands. Seeing it was lunch time I threw him some bread, the keys to the Hilux and sent him on a Taco Bell run for everyone”.

About five minutes later he wondered back into the team room with a bewildered/embarrassed look on his face.

I was like “what’s up kido?” – he said “I don’t know how to drive a stick”

Being an Old School guy who learned how to drive on a stick shift with his pop yelling at him the whole time the very concept that a man can not drive a stick has never entered my mind. So I was like “are you fucking serious bro?”.

Yep, he could not drive a stick shift, I have no fucking Idea how someone who was in the Army never learned how to drive a stick. And I have even less of an Idea how a Man does not know how to drive a stick. Anyway, I told him to grab one of our TCN’s and learn how to drive a stick by Thursday. To his credit he did, but we gave him shit about it everyday until he went to the Philippines on leave to marry some bar-girl and was never to be heard from again.

Reality Check:

Pretty much all the money gigs, military deployments and humanitarian aid volunteer work are gona’ be in some 3rd world dump-hole. That means the Contractor (or Mil/Government Agency/State/UN) you work for will buy a stick for non-mission getting around (and sometimes even for missions if they are especially stingy bastards) to save a lousy 500 bucks. Unbelievably in the 3rd world they still have brand new cars where airbags are an option, so the chances of you getting behind a manual car is pretty dang high.

And think about this scenario: What if the guntruck (or your car) you are driving gets disabled and you have to snatch some local dude out of his car (or just hot-wire a parked truck during a Hurricane when you minivan can’t go over a twig) and you sit down behind the wheel, it’s a stick and your ass does not know how to drive a manual? Well, you are fucked you pansy.

The Moral of the Story: Even if you are not shootin’ and lootin’ in some Tin Pot Dictatorship you are still a man, and men know how to drive a stick.

The above also applies to Motorcycles: Seriously, if you do not know how to drive a motorcycle and you are a man then take your skirt off and take a course

Part 2 Coming Soon Pimps…

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~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief DVM

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and grinding gears

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32 thoughts on “10 Skills Every Operator Should Have: Part 1 (of 10) – The Stick Shift”

  1. To be honest, I learned to drive an automatic only recently. I live in western Europe and manual cars are pretty much default here. Also – I hate driving automatic. it takes all the fun away.

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  2. Haa, Great one James. It’s the little things that will get you killed, like not knowing how to drive a stick. Can’t wait for the other 9 ;-)

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  3. Good article. What’s even more important that knowing how to drive a stick is actually knowing how to drive. I knew a guy back at VBC in 09 that took that crappy little “driving” test that you have to pass to get around the camps, and he failed. 5 times in a row. I don’t think he ever did pass and lets not talk about his shooting. Ugh. Funny thing is he is probably working and I am looking. Signs and wonders.

    D

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    1. Hahahaa… He is probably a Project Manager

      ~James G

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  4. Fuckin’ spot on James. Keep it up buddy!

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  5. Exactly. I was riding dirt bikes at 14, and driving by 17. Double clutch. Good article, and something all these pansy assess aren’t taught today, because today’s man are not men. Just dicks who procreate, and move on to the next piece of pussy. Leaving these boys to learn how to be men by women! And I think most of us know how that turns out? Pussy raising pussies! And again, I said most. There are women out there who are more manly than some. But still not the same.

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    1. Amen bro

      ~James G

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  6. Lol… while reading this article this comes up to me as obvious shit. It’s probably just a cultural clash thing. Here in Chile there’s an abundance of automatic cars. Still, when you take the crappy driving license test (which a lot of undeserving people pass, causing multiple and absurd car accidents days or months afterwards), you either take it on a stick shift or else your license is only valid for automatic. Anyway, I’m kinda awe stricken that there are adult men in the first world (+21) who don’t know how to drive a stick shift considering here in my country practically even all women know how to drive on a stick shift car (albeit some do it terribly… but gets them from A to B).

    Keep it up James!

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  7. I love this friggin Blog James. Probably gonna get my ass chewed one day at work for reading it but what the hell. Nice to see someone who actually knows what the hell they are talking about running a blog. Always the little things, no one wants to train or think about because they don’t cover it in hollywood.

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  8. Great write up, brought back memories of my dad teaching me how to dive stick in my grand-dad’s truck. You’re right though, you can’t even pretend to call yourself a man without knowing how to handle a manual transmission. Now to work on that motorcycle class lol.

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  9. My 21 year old nephew wanted to use my truck and freaked when he saw it was a stick. I been driving one for years/learned to drive one and still drive one to this day because I’m a cheap bastard. Now to take some of you back, I had a buddy who drove a standard with the stick in the column. great article.

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  10. Nice.

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  11. Haa,Great one James.It’s the little things that will get you killed, like not knowing how to drive a stick. Can’t wait for the other 9

    How about knowing how to drive a right hand drive vehicle? That is all we had in Afghanistan.

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    1. I learned how to drive a right had drive stick in Indonesia, it was a pain, like jacking-off left handed but I got the hang of it after a couple of weeks

      ~James G

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      1. Netanya: As my teenage daguethr would say, Whatever . It’s clear by your words you are indeed uninformed. It’s obvious by your comments you don’t really know what happens in animal research and only know what the animal rights terrorists have crammed down your throat. I have no problem with you being against animal research so long as you back up your meaningless words with the willingness to refuse any help that might have been developed through such research. I’d be happy to send you a card to carry with you that states that in the event of an accident you refuse any and all life saving procedures as they have all been tested on animals at some point. Are you willing to go that far? Most animal rights terrorists I’ve heard from have come up with some lame reason why they can accept such services while spewing their asinine rhetoric that it shouldn’t be done. What about you?

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    2. It\’s all we have here in Thailand. Right hand drive manuals. What a pain in the ass…always fun when racing tuk-tuks and crazy ass taxi bikes. Can\’t wait for the other 9.

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  12. Funny stuff, James.

    Some of the dudes in my platoon joked about carjacking a bongo truck or Hilux and engaging in general Grand Theft Auto shit. When I asked the discussion participants if anyone knew how to drive stick…. Yup!

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  13. I must admit when I saw the title with the word “operator” describing the person not being able to drive stick I couldn’t help but wonder what in the hell kinda “operator” cannot drive stick, I bout shat myself. But the term was indeed very loose!

    Anyone worthy of the title should have been to an offensive driving school, but with supply and demand in the world of the contractor I can only imagine what in the hell y’all end up with.

    I learned to drive a granny 4 speed “BIG 10″ 454 1974 Chevy 3/4 ton pond hopping out in the country. Talk about low geared! Later, but still a ways from being of legal driving age, I graduated to a ’79 Ford column shift. Sometime slightly north of age 16, with a driver’s license and drunker than hell, like a moron, around fourthmeal time I decided to make a run in to town for some Taco Bell in my friends old ass (not sure what year) BMW. Once again finding myself facing forward in a bass ackward tranny. But these were just non-life threatening joy rides compared to being in a war zone or even a 3rd world country.

    It flat out amazes me at some of the shit heads hired on for these contractor gigs, when I know my resume would be thrown out the damn window for having no prior service despite the thousands of dollars I have spent in various carbine, rifle and pistol schools, a CJ degree and years in LE! Hell, a damn monkey can run, shoot and learn the DoD’s whopping acronym catalog – the skill set this “operator” seem to have brought to the table! Unbelievable.

    Good “no shit” article!

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  14. James, You hit it dead on once again. Driving a stick shift should be a mandatory requirement to work in the PSD/PSS community. I learned how to drive a stick when I was still a kid(seems like forever ago).

    One time we had a FNG come on board which thought he was a “Super-Ninja” operator, and we had a mission come up and he wanted to drive one of the Mambas we had and said and I quote “I can drive a stick but I don’t know how to use one on a right hand drive” All I could do is shake my head to this statement.

    If you work in the PSS/PSD community and don’t know how to drive a stick. Find a friend that has a stick shift and learn how to drive the damn thing! If shizen goes side ways and your vehicle goes down and you need to commandeer a Haji vehicle it would make a bad day go to a real bad day if you jump in the vehicle and cant drive it!

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  15. HAA! Welcome to MY whirled brother!

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  16. Much like the author, I learned to drive a stick at 15 years old, in the parking lot of a closed down drive-in theater, with my father sitting right front, shouting at me. Stress inoculation, or something… That skill stood me in good stead when I was issued the worst Mitsu L200 in the world in An Nasiriyah, Iraq.

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  17. My first car was a ’73 Pinto with a German 2L engine, Weber 2bl carb and a 4-speed manual. I had to drive it home. (Only stalled it once) Stationed in the PI in the late 70’s all our trucks were manual. Since then, I’ve owned a ’62 Chevy pickup, an ’83 CJ-5 and some foreign disposable car with manuals. Oh, and 12 different bikes, including two Harleys.

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  18. Stick shifts and motorbikes who would have guessed! Great article James keep em coming!

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  19. Hell, I could drive a manual at 18 so I was wasn’t worried when one day at work I was asked to take a Toyota van out on a job.
    I get in the Toy…and there’s no floor shift and no auto column…it’s a manual shift with the stick on the side of the steering shaft.
    Hmm, interesting.
    I take a quick look at the shifting sequence map on the side of the shaft…first gear is down and back, second is up and forward, third is straight back, fourth is straight forward and up again, reverse is right up and right back.
    Fucking hell!
    I’m surprised the gearbox lasted the day.
    I’m good with motorcycles, been riding all my life, didn’t own a car for more than twenty years.
    I ended up buying a side shift Mitsubishi van years later, so the original experience didn’t scare me off for good.

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  20. MOM HANDLES FROM A TINY SMART TO BIG PETERBILTS, SHE IS 59 AT THE TIME AND HELL SHE DRIVES MY OFFROAD TRUCK FAR BETTER THAN ME LOL. SHE LEARNED ON A 1952 WILLIS TRUCK WITH THE VENERABLE TORNADO ENGINE. NOWADAYS THIS STICK TRADITION (WEIRD COMBINATION OF WORDS) REALLY DISTINGUISHES THE “DRIVER” FROM SOME PIECE OF ASS WHO TREMBLES WHEN THE CAR NEED TO BE PARKED IN A PARALLEL FASHION BETWEEN TO REALLY CLOSE VEHICLES.

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  21. Great article James, enjoyed reading it. Another DVM great.

    Unfortunately this is a skill I need to work on. Never really been given the opportunity. I know how to drive stick, I’m just rusty and would need to get back in the hang of it.

    Been on dirt bikes and ATVs before. Looking for a motorcycle for fuel economy so the motorcycle class is definitely on the list!

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  22. On the other end of the spectrum, a buddy and I went to a bar. After a night of drinking and carrying on with the local ladies we were headed home with our respective companions . My buddies signifigant other (for the night) tosses him the keys, so she can give him the ‘bidness” on the way home. The climb in, he remembers to open her door for her, things are looking good. As I drove past a couple minutes later they are still there, switching spots. My poor buddie looked crushed, he couldn’t drive a stick and had to admit it to miss hot to trot. I guess it cooled the eveining just a bit. Being a good friend I taught him to drive a manual, when he borrowed his brothers caar.

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  23. On the other end of the spectrum, a buddy and I went to a bar. After a night of drinking and carrying on with the local ladies we were headed home with our respective companions . My buddies signifigant other (for the night) tosses him the keys, so she can give him the ‘bidness” on the way home. The climb in, he remembers to open her door for her, things are looking good. As I drove past a couple minutes later they are still there, switching spots. My poor buddie looked crushed, he couldn’t drive a stick and had to admit it to miss hot to trot. I guess it cooled the eveining just a bit. Being a good friend I taught him to drive a manual, when he borrowed his brothers car.

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  24. Trying not to be impatient, but where oh where are #2-10? Most excellent article. Very anxious for the others. Thanks.

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  25. I work as a civilian contractor alongside units of the US Army. I can tell you that it shocks me to see first hand, how few military personnel under the age of 30 or so, that are unable to drive a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission. When I was a million years younger, it would have been an unbelievable embarrassment, to not know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.

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  26. Nice article. Where is the other skills?

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