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A report from downrange in Afghanistan


From a good friend, forward deployed in Afghanistan. Keep our brave servicemen and women in your hearts and minds especially over the Veteran’s Day holiday. If you voted, or chose not to vote, on Tuesday, thank a Soldier.

Hello again, everyone,

 

Not sure exactly when I sent out my last note, but I don’t think it has been a full week this time so maybe I’m on a roll again.  I made a relatively long trip yesterday out to a location on the edge of the city to look at a location where some of the Afghan National Army will occupy in a couple of days.  We wanted to make sure preparations are going well for their return as they’re coming back from the southern part of the country and have been involved in some fairly significant fighting. 

 

This was my first trip more than a mile beyond where I live in the three months since I arrived, so I was looking forward to it.  We had to prepare a little better than most trips since we were going farther away, so they did an actual convoy briefing and talked about what to do in case anything went wrong.  It was closer to what I had gotten used to in Iraq, so I did feel like we were better prepared.  It’s just one of those things you have to do when you go farther from home.  Based on the plan, the trip was only about 7 miles.  It might be some of the longest 7 miles in the world, short of walking.  It’s not that the drive isn’t interesting, but much of it is through an incredibly busy part of the city.  The traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular (to include donkeys, carts, bikes, etc.) is horrible.  In many places, we were creeping along with people walking faster than we were going in our vehicles.  It took us 30-45 minutes both ways. 

 

I would have loved to have taken more pictures, but it’s really hard to do when people are 3 feet from the vehicle no matter how interesting they are.  Most don’t appreciate being photographed by a bunch of Army guys inside an armored SUV like we’re on a safari of some sort.  I think it’s completely understandable.  That said, it would be the best “people-watching” place I’ve ever seen if you could sit in one spot and watch.  There was a stretch at least a couple of miles long with nothing but street vendors and their customers.  There are literally thousands of people…some don’t look that different from us outside of their dress, and some look like they just came from fighting in the mountains.  We saw a big part of the outskirts of the city, most of which is still incredibly poor.

 

I don’t feel like I can do the descriptions much justice…the motorcycle dealer had a couple dozen new street bikes lined up on top of about 3 feet of what remained of an old building that had obviously been made with mud and brick.  Almost everything is made with mud and brick.  It doesn’t look like they haul anything away.  They locate “new” stores inside the remains of the old ones by putting up a new sign and sealing up the gaping holes well enough to keep the wind and cold out.  The mujahedeen pounded each other for about 8 years right inside the city between the time the Soviets left and the Taliban came in.  I attached a picture of the old King’s Palace, which was built in the 1920s.  It was destroyed during this same time as all the old warlords fought over who would be in control.  Sad, and it explains a lot about how there is still so much distrust among the Pashtun, Tajiks, etc.  It also explains how they were thankful to see the Taliban at first, because they put an end to all of the fighting for awhile.

 

Anyway, it all makes you glad to be an American.  98% of us don’t know how well we have it or how bad things can be.  A visit to the 3rd poorest country in the world will lend some perspective, for sure.  We did all check up on the election results, as you might expect, but I think a few shoulder shrugs were the most expression I saw.  While it’s true we’re expected to remain apolitical in public, we can discuss things with our peers.  I don’t think it would shock most people to know that the military, especially the career military, are a relatively conservative bunch so you can probably guess the leanings of most of our voters.  That said, I’ve yet to hear a negative word, even in private conversations, about the outcome.  I think we military revere the election process as much, and maybe more, than the regular joe.  While we certainly might have private views that differ from the President-elect, we all understand (or should understand) that this is the choice of the people and that’s all that matters.  More than any disappointment on a personal level, I think everyone should have tremendous pride that we live in a country where we get to make these choices of our own free will and that your basic rights will remain intact no matter who is president.  That’s not true in much of the world.

The success of the president, no matter who he is, means the success of America and that’s all that should matter now.  We’re all back on the same team now, like it or not.  We should all say a prayer for him and his family and for a great four years.

 

So, as “America the Beautiful” fades softly away in the background, I will close and wish you all a good day, night, morning or whatever.  Be safe and God Bless.

 

Keith

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