Kevin Barry may not be a name that rings a bell to some readers of this blog. Those to whom the name does mean anything will think of the Irish rebel song of the name.
To me, however, the name, Kevin Barry, means something, someone, different.
Flight Lieutenant Kevin Barry Main RAF.
His life brought short in March 2003 during Gulf War II. Not in brave combat, shown down by the enemy. But shot down in what is euphemistically called a “blue-on-blue” incident. An American Patriot missile accidentally shot him down.
So that makes it ok, then?
So what’s Flight Lieutenant Kevin Barry Main got to do with me?
To quote Shakespeare:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…
Over a decade and a half ago, the part I played was that of part-time soldier in the Territorial Army (now called the Army Reserve, equivalent to the US National Guard), reaching the dizzy heights of Lance-Corporal. As a result, I attended the Army’s interrogators course, learning about:
- Eye access cues
- The acronym ICATQ (“I cannot answer that question”)
- The Big Six, namely:
- Date of birth
- Blood group
- Nice cop, nasty cop
The interrogators course culminated in a real interrogation exercise somewhere in the South-West of England. In mid-January. Cold. Brrr. Not nice. “Our” exercise dovetailed with an escape and evasion exercise for RAF air crews, more used to officers’ mess dinners, fine wines and good living. Now it was catch your own food, keep running around and get captured, handcuffed, blindfolded and hooded and brought to the interrogation centre to be placed into stress positions to listen to “white noise,” which sounds like the crackle of a not tuned-in radio.
Don’t worry, ladies and gentlemen, for the interrogators will break the monotony of the stress positions and white noise.
Flight Lieutenant Main was one of my “clients.” He had been sent to me and my senior interrogator for a “harsh” interrogation. Rest assured, no RAF officers were harmed during this interrogation. He’d been sent to us two because he’d made a big mistake at his previous interrogation, which in our “session,” he called an “interview,” another faux pas on his part. The next thirty minutes were not much fun (for him). He was screamed at, shouted at, told there was no excuse, told to pick up a toilet seat and place it on the back of his neck.
Now flush that toilet!
That was the polite invitation from my senior interrogator.
Flight Lieutenant Main duly did so – several times.
He then left suitably chastened, having learnt his lesson, namely not even to spell your name when asked to state your name. Apart from the Big Six, the answer to every other question is ICATQ.
Fast forward from early 2000 to March 2003…
An office in Düsseldorf, Germany. A pair of colleagues having a blazing row because the coffee machine is out of cappuccino. Sorry, I didn’t realise I was working in a kindergarten.
I decide to click on the BBC news website to catch the latest headlines. A story about an RAF pilot shot down in Gulf War II.
That can’t be him. The same one that I…
Heart rate up…
I swallow hard.
I see his full name.
Kevin Barry Main.
I see his photo, smiling. That’s probably in pride of place at his parents’ house.
My head is now pounding.
infants colleagues are still arguing about the coffee machine.
I walk away. I reach the desk of my ex-Royal Signals colleague, Martin.
Martin, I need to talk to someone. Can we go to the newly-opened Starbucks? I’ll treat you to a coffee.
We reach Starbucks. They have cappuccino there. Maybe I should tell the infants? I tell Martin about my old part-time and about the blue-on-blue incident.
No tears, no melodrama. No hugging. It was all matter-of-fact. I just need to let off steam and get away from the pettiness of the two colleagues.
Kevin Barry gave his young life for the cause of… Well, you tell me, Mr Tony Bliar, you tell me.
Have a caffeine-filled day, won’t you!