Further adventures of our friend TSO going on Patrol in Afghanistan. Interesting observations by him and our own military about the Afghans and the ANA.
In my defense, a first call of 0300 for a media embed is unconscionable. (Joes were 0200)
Nonetheless, when I showed up at the vehicles this morning for our SP time, my vehicle-mates would have been well within their rights to just send me back to my hooch. No MRE. Camelback empty. No gloves. Wearing sunglasses and using a white light (I honestly just thought it was dark.) And my field and stream shirt was inside out, so not only was the collar on the inside of my armor and rubbing the wrong way, but the interior mesh of the shirt was on the outside. And I might never have known about this deficiency until I caught sight of my shadow, and realized that those straps you use to make your shirt short-sleeved were hanging down from me. Dude, soup sandwich don’t have [stuff] on me.
Today was day 2 of actual patrols with the ANA, and I remain impressed by them. I was sitting outside one Qalat with an E4 (maybe an RTO) who looked up at his ANA counterparts and waved to one of them. “You know what pisses me off about the media and civilians?” he asked. “They either badmouth the ANA or they think all of these people are savages. Neither is true.” he lamented as he shook his head.
The man “Parachute Cutie” calls “Captain America”, the CO of Able company agrees. “Look at ‘em, doing everything we do.” The CO and the 1SG are a hilarious couple. They remind me of the guys from the old Bartles and James commercials where one guy talks nonstop, and the other just sort of nods. You could ask 1SG if he could pass the salt and somehow, without breathing, he’d be still talking 20 minutes later, and telling you how much he is pulling for some girl on The Voice. The CO is more like me, you have a certain number of spoken words you can use each day, and he is economizing them, and his are spoken in this Tennessee drawl so I listen pretty close to every one of them.
The two of them never stop smiling, answer everything I ask, and tease the troops and each other mercilessly. In fact, everyone in this unit smiles a lot. My only complaint at all is that the PSG I am with smiles right before he launches into epic arse-chewings, and I never get a chance to get it on video. It’s not what he says neccessarily that makes them epic, but he has this certain panache that makes his rants so enjoyable. I swear, I look around before patrols in hopes someone isn’t wearing knee pads, which to hear him tell it might be worthy of a court martial.
But today I got to follow the CO around, and watch him interact with the troops, the terp (“Cletus” is probably not his given Afghan name, but it is on his nametape) and the Afgan Army guys. He pointed out all the stuff they were doing. For instance, we were moving through one village, and it had probably 20-30 qalats, and in-between the houses were 2-300m open spaces. Where on my deployment here (’04-05) I had witnessed similiarly situated ANA guys walking around in circles or playing soccer with UXO (well, it probably wasn’t unexploded ordinance, but it was a cylinder that looked unhealthy) these guys set up overwatch positions, and then bounded in 2 elements.
When we went into the compounds, they didn’t steal everything that wasn’t tied down, they talked to the homeowner first, requested permission to climb up on the roofs, didn’t leave litter everywhere, and then thanked the guy when we left. They continue to not get the total concept of safety* but on tactical stuff they are great. They understand how to use the maps, and communicated through the radios pretty effectively. When one guy was apparently not pulling his weight yesterday morning, he literally got a boot to his arse, and then the ANA Commander took away the guys weapon and chased him back on the compound. They seem to take real pride in the work they are doing, and seem very cognizant of the importance. It may be a small thing, but they decorate all their vehicles with the Afghan flag, and they seem to be very cogniscent of emerging nationalism.
*Case in point was the weapons test fire the other day, and this other poor cat that was in the back of a pickup that I saw the other day. Undeterred by a man standing in the back with a DShK attached to the roof, the driver decided to take a series of bumps at about 30 MPH. Guy in the back had to let go of the gun, and grab onto the side of the truck. The perturbations of the vehicle of course send the DShK spinning in a circle, so now the guy is holding on for dear life to the sides, while simultaneously channeling Jackie Chan’s ducking ability to keep from getting his block knocked off by a machinegun.
Another patrolmate today was Pookie, some sort of mutt that the guys think is a guardian angel. It should be noted that this Talisman of Luck is not being fed, owned or in anyway controlled by the Joes (that would violate General Order 1B prohibiting pets) but rather appears to live over at the ANA compound, and runs out at the sound of vehicles. This isn’t a dog I would take home to play with mine. The only reason I was upset about not bringing my gloves this morning was because I would rather shower with turpentine than pet that dog without gloves on. MOPP 4 would even be preferred. But that guy was running alongside the vehicles as we left and then patrolled with us when on the ground. A few times he got a little lazy and just skipped large portions of the road on cut-backs, but most the time he ran right behind one of our vehicles. Was glad to see Pookie with us today though, since I saw a dead dog yesterday on patrol, and it made me a bit sad. The guys think nothing bad will happen when Pookie is around.
Anyway, that is it for today. It’s noon and I am exhausted. And I just ate what they refer to as “chow” here, and I therefore know I have a date with the restrooms in my near future. After that, a shower, some laundry, and then a nap that will last through first call tomorrow. Let’s hope common decency prevails and that first call isn’t before….oh, let’s say 0900.