Jul 21 2011

Sticking out like a sore thumb

Published by at 2:07 am under Travel

Jeffery Goldberg makes some great observations about how lousy Americans are about trying to blend in while traveling, all lectures to do so to the contrary:

It became instantly obvious that this flight was going to carry a large number of Afghanistan-based American contractors and active-duty military personnel back home. It wasn’t that the soldiers were in uniform — American soldiers don’t travel in uniform on international flights, for security reasons — but they may as well have been. One small example: I was sitting, at one point, next to an American man of obvious military bearing, a real barrel-chested freedom fighter sort, who wore a polo shirt inscribed with the words, “Army Aviation Association.” He was also carrying a camouflage tactical rucksack with his last name stitched on the back. He seemed like a senior-enough guy to have a Google profile, so I typed into my iPhone his last name, plus Afghanistan, plus “army aviation” and came up with his exact identity in 20 seconds. He is one of the key leaders of the military’s drone programs in Afghanistan. Now if I weren’t a patriot, but instead an anti-American jihadist, I might have seen this as an opportunity to do some damage.

Now of course, we were in an airport, a good airport with what I think is good security, but still, it seemed as if these people were inadvertently making themselves into obvious targets. I counted, in the crowd waiting to board the flight, five different guys wearing “Dyncorp” hats or shirts; Dyncorp is one of the biggest military contractors. I saw others wearing shirts labeled “General Dynamics” and “Iomax” and still others were wearing “Bagram Air Base” t-shirts, and almost all of these men — dozens and dozens of them — were wearing khaki tactical pants, Caterpillar boots, the whole non-uniform uniform. (And fanny-packs and those ridiculous wallet-on-a-string-around-your-neck things, but that is a separate fashion conversation.)


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8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Sticking out like a sore thumb”

  1. Mauriceon 21 Jul 2011 at 3:50 am

    Good article. Just like here in Nippon, they make you have a “Y” plate and yet tell you to try and blend in. Plenty of Iranians and other middle easterners (as well as SE Asians) in Japan, and if they really wanted to make a statement, don’t attack a base, just go through any residental neighborhood near a base and pick out the “Y” plates and wait for morning and conduct a random stabbing here and there. It would shut us down immediately.

    But, doing something simple like making us all have Kanji plates, but paying the SOFA rates vice regular rates is a bit too hard for the JN officials and the Americans. It’s not hard to do, but represents too much “change” for the people to actually follow through.

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  2. Cy-Kickon 21 Jul 2011 at 6:04 am

    Goldberg could have taken it a step further if he wanted and ” tweeted” or “facebooked” with this guy. I don’t get this thing of telling everyone what your having for dinner at what restaurant?

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  3. Curtison 21 Jul 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Ya know, I think it gets to be a kind of “fuck with me” thing. These guys aim to kill anybody that fucks with them on a flight, in an airport, between flights. They’re not the sheep. They’re the wolves. And they like to shove it in the face of the sheep. We’re a bit different.

    don’t know this guy’s airline. All my travels through Atlanta included Army guys wearing desert cammo.

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  4. lawrence granton 21 Jul 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Interesting, my unit makes us sanitize when we travel…duffel goes into a golf bag carrier, no been there shirts and hats, no nametags, no ID card hanging around our neck. Blend in as best as we can. And we are civilians.

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  5. Curtison 22 Jul 2011 at 12:31 am


    want to explain again why US ARMY travels in cammo? They are all over the airport in Atlanta and DFW. They’re heading there or back on leave or returning home or going back.

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  6. Skippy-sanon 22 Jul 2011 at 2:17 am

    I’ve never understood why the Army travels in uniform either. Having come into the Navy when that was considered a big no-no, I am suprised to see so many people doing it. On the one hand it makes it easier for the airline to recognize a Soldier and take care of him ( Like putting him in first class-have seen that happen a couple of times) and at the same time, I would think it would be more than a little uncomfortable.

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  7. lawrence granton 22 Jul 2011 at 6:48 am

    It is the show the uniform policy that was put into place during the Bush years. I’m surprised that it has not gone away.

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  8. Richardon 22 Jul 2011 at 8:54 am

    Speaking of Atlanta, on my way to HELL, or Texas as the locals call it, i hubbed thru Atlanta…OMG…what recession? so crowded on concourse D that we had a tough time navigating thru all the people to get to C….
    and oh yeah, lots of soldiers in uniform.

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