What is a Hmrjmr?
I have been asked a couple times about my moniker here on Hub pages. Hmrjmr1 is an abbreviation of my radio call sign at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer, Iraq. I arrived at FOB Hammer in spring 2007 just shortly after the Dirt Wall ‘Berm’ had been finished. It was a new camp to the east of Baghdad and had both strategic and tactical considerations at the time that I won’t go into here but safe to say it was an important piece of ground for our efforts in Iraq.
It was occupied by the 3rd HCBT (Heavy Brigade Combat Team) 3rd Infantry Division, Commanded at the time by Col Wayne Grigsby, probably the best infantry brigade commander I have ever encountered in both my 22 years of active duty, and 4 years 8 months of contracting time. The 3rd Brigade was nicknamed the “Sledge Hammers” thus when they built the FOB they had the naming rights and it became FOB Hammer. Col Grigsby’s call sign was “Hammer 6” signifying the Brigade (Hammer) Commander (6). We the Contractors, provided FOB services to the Military, like plumbers, electricians, cooks, and my functional area of Morale Welfare and Recreation Services, among a host of others.
Now it is fair at this point to mention that the ground FOB Hammer was built on was, while tactically important, some of the worst ground Iraq or the region itself has to offer. The dust was the consistency of superfine baby powder that was in places a couple of feet thick. It was so fine that the nightly air pressure changes would elevate the top inch or so into a dustfog that was twenty or thirty feet high. It got into everything all the time, and when the wind blew (most of the time) it did so with a vengeance. It was a difficult place to live. but I digress.
Back to call signs; each of us contractors were assigned a radio on the FOB, not necessarily as a convenience, as there were no phones, but for security reasons. During attacks and after personnel accountability was a big issue. So when we had incoming rounds we would all take cover in the nearest bunker and clear the radio net and report the accountability personally and department heads (think supervisors) if some one did not answer, we would start looking for them. Of course if you were wounded you called on the net for help. So each individual contractor had to have a call sign.
When I arrived on FOB Hammer our call signs were set by department (eg MWR 1, Carpenter 2, etc) but shortly after I arrived we were directed to change as you have to assume the enemy is listening and the command did not want them to know who was doing what. Our company operations was in charge of this and they came up with what would be known as the ‘Hammer Scheme’, they came up with some cool call signs like Claw hammer for carpenters, and some others but it rapidly became unmanageable as some of the trades did not have such an identifiable hammer type that folks could remember. My department picked up the Hammer Jammer call sign at this time, and when the plan was scraped it was the only hammer variant retained.
Why Hammer Jammer then? Well every week at the FOB Mayors Cell meeting I had to give a briefing of MWR activities for the week,. The Army has a tradition of concluding their briefings with a unit catch phrase, like “Rangers Lead the Way!”, “Sledge Hammer!” and so on. Being retired Army I just automatically added on to mine that I took from Bob Marleys song “Jammin”. The song starts out with “Well, it’s a long life and we’re Jammin hope you like Jammin too!”; I thought that was a pretty cool sentiment for MWR to have so at the end of my briefing I would conclude it with the Phrase “We be Jammin!” Thus Hammer Jammers and since I was a civilian department head Hammer Jammer 1 was assigned.
As Paul Harvey used to say, Now comes the rest of the story. You see I felt it was incumbent on me to develop some cohesive pride in my department. As I said before, FOB Hammer was a difficult place to live. Consequently in the contracting world being sent there was not generally appreciated by the folks assigned to the FOB. Seems many of the Functional Managers, and other Camp Mangers used it to send off their “problem child” though that would be denied by management.
On the other hand, I had volunteered to go, as I had asked my managers for the chance to build new camps, and to take on the tough jobs in places nobody else wanted to be. I promised them I would make something out of nothing if I had to, and FOB Hammer was just such a place at the beginning. I woke up every single day I was on FOB Hammer certain in the knowledge that I was were I was cause I had put myself there, and I could smile knowing I had got what I asked for. I took that attitude and made being a Hammer Jammer a point of pride not only at FOB Hammer but with in the larger MWR Community in the Baghdad Area.
Now I have to tell you that just after I was assigned to FOB Hammer I got a new Functional Area Manager Ms Pennie Bannister. We were blessed. When it came to personnel assignments we worked closely together and I got some quality personnel. The original crew I had were temporarily assigned and had return dates to their previous FOBs assured. I needed folks that would take some extra pride in the camp despite its drawbacks and make the MWR programs go and grow. Pennie Bannister delivered such a crew as the temporary assignments ran out. I do believe more than any one else she was responsible for assembling the Best MWR Team on the Planet, all I had to do was train them, give them the missions, and step back out of the way and let them shine! They never let me down. So it was then that after about 6 or 7 months of operation my MWR program got the moniker HammerJammerUniversity from Ms Pennie and we had some grads and some drop outs but our accomplishments speak for themselves.
During the seventeen months my team operated Hammer MWR we served over 1.6 million customers, on a FOB that had a population that varied between 2500-5000 people at any given time. That means we statistically served every individual on the FOB every 1.4 days. I do not know of any other FOB with that kind of record; especially when you consider that not one of our customers had an individual requirement to attend any of our events or programs.
One other significant element you should know about the Hammer Jammers. We were truly a multi national team. We had Hammer Jammers from the US, Canada, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria, Macedonia, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. All with the common purpose of giving our soldiers a quality experience every day, were they could leave the stresses behind and focus on the fun of the game, the song, the exercise, the internet. With the common hope that one day we would no longer be needed.
So it is with immense pride that when I started Hubbing, I did so about HammerJammerUniversity and used my call sign to sign in. I was the first Hammer Jammer 1 and the current Hammer Jammer 1 is one of the guys that I trained to earn that position, Mr Amir (for personal security reasons I will not list his last name) he is a true Hammer Jammer as he was assigned just a month or so after I was, and took pride in mission to a level rarely achieved by others. He had been a grunt in the Bosnian Army during their conflict and had served as a contract worker for the US forces in Bosnia for many years before coming to Iraq. He understands soldiers in general and US soldiers in particular, and I do believe loves them nearly as much as I do.
During my tenure at FOB Hammer we had a weekly mandatory safety meeting for all employees, contractor, and sub contract workers. It was the one time a week I could have most of my folks in one place, since we ran all of our facilities 24/7. At the end of these meetings I would gather my Hammer Jammers and we’d put our hands in the middle of the circle like a pre-game team and I would give them a motivational moment that ended with the Questions “Who are ya?” answer Hammer Jammers! What do we do? “We Be Jammin!” When do we do it? Allll Dayyy Looooong!!! Thus I will be, always a Hammer Jammer! Keep on Jammin!
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