The fobbit

Lone on-site IT engineer takes over at a small military base in the desert in Iraq. And he's very gung-ho about doing his part, reports a pilot fish on the scene.

"He was tired of being a mere fobbit -- someone who never leaves the FOB (forward operating base)," says fish. "He too wanted to be able to brag about his time 'outside the wire,' so he came up with a novel excuse."

The base has a small wireless network using WEP encryption, and the engineer decides he has to make sure the network wasn't being cracked and then monitored by insurgents.

Which isn't a bad idea, except that (1) the base is in flat desert and any outsider is easy to spot, (2) wireless just doesn't have much range, and (3) "I miss you, honey" e-mails aren't exactly top-secret material.

Still, engineer goes to the protective security detail team and demands to be driven around outside the base to test exactly how far the wireless signal can be detected.

"Despite realizing that his request was pretty much BS, the PSD team took it with surprisingly good grace," fish says. "And on their one day off in weeks, they drove the man around outside the wire, crouched over his laptop and GPS."

But after driving around for a while, the requests to go to just one more GPS point, and then another and yet another, wear out the engineer's welcome.

And eventually, a stun grenade is surreptitiously dropped out from the back of the vehicle. And it does what grenades do: go kaboom.

"Contact! Contact rear! Go, go, go!"

And in seconds, the engineer goes from directing his own PSD team around the desert to being squashed flat on the floor with two heavy men perched on top of him, vehicle bumping wildly through the desert as machine-gun fire is directed toward, um, the insurgents.

"It's purely coincidental that most of the hot brass of the ejecting ammunition cases showered directly on him, of course," says fish.

"He never asked to go out again, but it was rather amusing hearing him give his expert opinions on the ambush he'd survived outside the wire -- and just how much the tale grew over time.

"So if you ever hear about the IT engineer who single-handedly saved an entire PSD team's lives in Iraq..."

Sharky loves a happy ending -- which in this case means everybody survives. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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