Packing for another romp in the 3rd world
When you pull over at a Hajji Shop in Iraq and you walk through the isles past the cans of fly-covered baklava, dusty cans of corned beef and Gauloise Smokes what is the one thing you can not buy?
And not just in Iraq, I once drove around for 3 hours in Phnom Penh, Cambodia looking for CR123’s before I finally found some in a camera shop for the astounding price of 16 bucks a pop!
After going through all the Bullshit of having to order CR123’s in bulk and paying 150 bucks to ship them, trading bottles of Jack D with force protection guards and wasting time trying to track down a shop in Stabyouinthefaceistan just to get raped at the cash register I had enough. So I decided to replace all the disposable battery powered kit I used with AA and AAA powered kit.
But that created another problem, off-brand batteries in the 3rd world are mostly shit Chinese batteries that have 1/5th the charge that US batteries have, so to make up for using commie batteries I had to pack a shit-load of batteries before every mission.
And enter the next problem, I would end up with a huge pile of loose batteries spread all over the bottom of my mission bag (I would take them out of the package so I would not have to fuck around with cutting a battery package open while trying to watch the road).
Solution: Enter the guys over at Flight and Fight Tactical
Tools of the trade for Operators who work nowhere near Starbucks
So when 3rd world rebels, bearded High-Speed low drag types, spies and Mercenaries need to make a call what phone do they pick-up? When I get the call to hop on a plane to some 3rd world war zone for a ridiculous amount of money what type of phone do I throw in my bag?
Sony Ericsson? No way, it’ll break in a week. Motorola? It won’t last 3 days before it breaks into two pieces. iPhone? Fuck no [I would rather use two tin cans and a string than anything “I” in the 3rd world.
So what is my and just about every other operator’s choice for a cell phone if we will be working in some of the most hostile and hardest use environments in the world?
Nokia – any model
Yep, just about everyone I tell this too is surprised when I say “I would rather use a pay phone than use any cell phone but Nokia in a War Zone”. But walk around a base in Iraq or around a city in Africa and you will see what I am talking about. Nokia is one of the most prevalent phones in the third world, and for good reason.
Even the cheapest model is bullet proof, and oddly the cheaper the model you buy the tougher it is. One of the reasons why Nokia phones are so tough is Nokia’s main market is Asia, Southeast Asia in particular. Unlike in the US or Europe where people go from their homes to their car to their office – in Asia people jump onto the back of a kerosene and diesel fuming Tuck-Tuck, then to a bus or subway stuffed with 80 people then a 20 minute walk in a pothole covered street.
And Nokia knows if their phones can’t take that then simply people won’t buy their phones. In parts of Asia buying a cell phone is a big investment, so if word got around that Nokia made shit phones that fell apart then no one would buy one. So market pressures have forced them into making even the cheapest model tough as hell.
Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?
If you are a civilian contractor, you definitely want to pay attention to the tips that follow. Life in the field and on post can suck ass and inflict upon you long stints of boredom; plain and simple. The conveniences and ‘On demand’ lifestyle we are used to back home just doesn’t exist in the foreign Countries we are battling in today.
..But here’s the good news, there are electronics available that can make your life in the field a bit more sufferable.
I consider all of the electronics below essential gear and pack all of these items with me on the road every mission. I am always looking to cut corners when it’s a safe thing to do and create more enjoyable free time for myself as well as provide for some creature comforts. These tools and devices do just that.
The DVR Spy Pen (my Rocket Firing one is in the shop)
I have always been fascinated with cool spy gadgets from the first time I saw Q equip James Bond with a Garrote watch and a pack of Mini-rocket Cigarettes. I am still waiting for the laser watch that can cut through steel and helicopter in a briefcase. But in the mean time I will have to make due with the covert tradecraft tools currently on the market.
One of the most common tradecraft activities is collecting visual or audio intelligence covertly. As recently as 5 years ago covert color AV (Audio & Video) recorders that were smaller than a pack of smokes were outrageously expensive. But over the past couple of years the technology to shrink AV components has progressed so far that anyone can now buy one for less than filling up a tank of gas.
That brings us to the Color Video and Audio Pen, this is a rocking tradecraft tool for the anyspy budget. I picked up one of these a year ago intending to use it for a gig I was supposed to work on that ended up not happening. So I tossed it in my tradecraft box for a rainy day (I did consider making my own covert Paris Hilton type videos but later decided that was even too sleazy for me).
BURN YOU SONY PIECE OF CRAP! BURN!
One of the most common questions I hear asked (and am asked) is “what laptop is the best for a hostile/tough use environment?”. Well you will first have to consider how rough your laptop will be handled and how much exposure it will have to the environment.
If you are working in a place like Iraq but mostly stay on a base then a regular laptop will be fine even if you have an occasional chopper or Hummer ride. But if you are climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and need a laptop to update your blog then a ruggedized laptop might be a better choice.
And of course your budget will depend on your selection, it may very well be the main deciding factor for you when buying a laptop for hard use.
Below are a few suggestions based on my experience using, issuing and maintaining laptops in hard use environments, both professionally and for personal use (watching certain movies).