Radio LAR helps Italians communicate
September 29, 2011
"I know that most Europeans speak English, but there doesn't seem to be a very great quantity that do speak English over there," Michael McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin, a radio logistics assistance representative with the Logistics Support Element at Shindand Airfield, part of the Army Field Support Battalion--Kandahar, 401st Army Field Support Brigade, assisted the Italian Soldiers stationed there with the radios in the tactical vehicles the Americans provided them.
"It was just initially hard," said McLaughlin. "But, they are really friendly. They are great to work with."
McLaughlin helped them install American communications equipment in their new trucks and taught them how to operate it. "A vehicle that can't communicate is dead-lined," he said.
"I told them they needed to make a 'cheat sheet' of the frequencies they are using or the names of the truck so they can message really quick," recalled McLaughlin. "First they asked 'what's a cheat?' I did not know how to explain it. I said, 'Well have you ever played a video game where you are shooting someone and they don't die? That person was a cheater.' And they said, 'oh, okay.'"
The biggest difference between the Italian and American Army was the "technology, the radios that they have are from the '80s, maybe even late '70s," said McLaughlin. "But because they have had these radio systems for so long almost all the soldiers are 100 percent proficient on the systems. Everyone knows how they work. Unlike the U.S. Army were we are constantly getting new equipment and the Soldiers don't understand the capabilities or how the new systems work."
Being a LAR means providing support in many different ways. And McLaughlin was able to provide help above and beyond just installing the Italians communications equipment.
"He [an Italian warrant officer] came back to my office for a second because I wanted to give him some information. He saw my big box of cables that I brought and he reached down and he picked up a very common connection that we have. All the American vehicles have it, a six pin connector, and he looks at me and says, 'I have had these on order for three months.'
"The reason I brought the cables was to hand them out to people who need them. I said, 'Well take a couple,' and he was so happy he ripped his patch off his shoulder and said thank you, thank you so much."
McLaughlin was also able to experience some Italian culture while working with them. He was invited to have lunch with the unit he was helping.
"There was one or two appetizers, three or four main courses," recounted McLaughlin, "but what was different about it was they had a spaghetti plate with shrimp right? But, it has the whole shrimp! With the legs, the antennae, the eyeballs, and the claw, everything!"
McLaughlin continued, "They had fish that day, the whole fish, with the head and tail and everything still connected.
"I think I am lucky that I am a radio guy," McLaughlin said, "because there's not many positions as a LAR where you can go across coalition forces. You know, generators--the generator guy is not going to go work on the Italian generator. The weapons guy is not going to go work on Italian weapons and so on."