The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

OUR INTERPRETERS |

October 13, 2006

OUR INTERPRETERS
Name: SSG Glenn Yeager
Posting date: 10/13/2006
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Sandy, Oregon

I sat down with two of our interpreters today. We sat and BS'ed for a good 30 minutes or so. They told me stories about other teams they've worked for before us, the Afghan National Army, things they've seen since they've been here, and some of the people from the other teams.

One thing really struck me at one point during the conversation. One of the terps, Javied, was talking about why we were here. He said that he understood that we were here to protect our country from terrorists, understands what we went through (which made me remember that these two guys, and a whole hell of a lot more like them, lived the nightmare that we only had a taste of), and that he also understands that we're here to help the ANA stand up and protect their own country like we do for ours. He was looking right into my eyes and was completely serious about it, too. And the other terp, Shah, nodded in agreement.

It's like I said before about the ANA, these guys are putting a lot on the line by doing what they're doing. Any one of these guys, including any of the ANA soldiers, could get killed at any time if they're on leave or walking in public without protection. All because of what they're doing, or trying to do. This whole group is not doing this for the money (because, as for us, the money is minimal compared to a lot of other jobs outside the military). Our terps and the ANA soldiers are doing this because they want their country to be like it was decades ago. And they believe in what we're doing and why we're here. They know we're here for them. This isn't the first time I've heard this, either. Different ranks of ANA soldiers have told me this before, too.

It just made me even more proud of what I'm doing and what I'm a part of. And it doubled the amount of respect I have for all of these guys I'm with. They've become my brothers. And we tell each other that each time we see each other in the morning at formation. We shake each other's hands and we hug as a gesture of friendship and respect. Another sign of respect for another person in this country is after you shake a person's hand, you place your hand over your heart. You see it everywhere. I've learned the various greetings in their language, too. As another sign of respect towards them.

I'm honored to serve with these soldiers and I'm honored to have our terps. I feel safe and secure around any one of them. And I will hate to leave them when it's time to go home. They will always be my friends...and my brothers. Because of what they are doing and what they are standing up for.

Comments

I wish you continued success with your mission as well as a healthy dose of good fortune and safety!

Thanks. You gave me a different perspective that I never saw before. Considering I really don't know anything about the war, I appreciate this.

This is the first positive comment I've ever heard re the Iraqi people, not insurgents, we're supposedly fighting for. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your viewpoint & courage in sharing it. Christine M

Thank you for sharing that. We do not hear about the sacrifice and appreciation that the locals express often enough. You and your brothers have my respect and prayers for safety.

Thank you for your excellent service. I'm proud of the job you're doing. Also, thank you for the mental picture of your morning formation.

That's the heartbreaking part of a rapid pull-out: we would essentially be betraying those who trusted us, and who believed in us.

We have to do it right, somehow, if we are to live up to the trust that you so movingly describe. Thanks.

Thanks for telling everyone your story. I think back here in the states we forget about all the things that are going on in Afghanistan because the focus is on Iraq. The more we help stabilize Afghanistan, assist in infrastructure etc., the more quickly people can get back to making a real living without having to depend on "day jobs" as rifle-men and cannon-fodder for the Taliban. If we don't get Afghanistan squared away, then it will just turn into an insurgent training ground all over again. Thanks for what you do. Stay safe.

Forty years ago they shipped us to Vietnam to help square things away; it didn't work. We were aliens there.
In order for a new, kinder order to take root in Afgan society, the sources for that change need to be Islamic, not Western. Afgans will need to believe both that we can be trusted to stick around - and trusted not to take over.
May your kindness and generosity with them be a shield to protect you from harm. Safe journeys!
jab

GOD BLESS YOU, and keep you safe........

These comments are so encouraging to me. I am so proud of you men who honorably defend America and are daily putting your lives on the line. I pray you safely return home. Thank you for your bravery!
Olympia, WA.

My young son asked me one day, "Dad, why is it so easy to destroy things and so hard to build them?" I said "It takes courage to build when all around you is destruction. You will feel anonymous at times and unappreciated. But what you do is important because it just needs to be done." Your actions sir are not anonymous nor unappreciated they are very much felt on the other side of the world. Stay Well.

My daughter, Helen, just returned from Iraq and spoke of the same respect and admiration for the Iraqis she encountered there. She told me one funny story about a young Iraqi who spoke to her and her buddies through the fence one afternoon. He kept telling them 'thank you' and smiling. He was about 13, and had a small flock of sheep. Suddenly the young Iraqi grabbed one of the smaller sheep and began to try to throw it over the fence, as a gesture of thanks. Helen and her buddies were trying their best to get him to stop, because of the concertina wire, and they just knew the sheep would be killed. But the young Iraqi just smiled and kept saying 'thank you' swinging the poor sheep in an attempt to get it over the fence. He finally suceeded.

I am happy to say that the sheep survived.

I hope everybody realizes this dispatch is from Afghanistan, not Iraq.

And BTW, I'm not a trusting soul. I'd beware of locals telling me what I wanted to hear. Not all of them may mean it.

Your friendship with your interpreters is a beautiful thing - it proves that most people across the globe are decent and good-natured.

Perhaps I'm wrong for mentioning this here, but I do believe that creating peace, even with would be terrorists is through diplomacy and friendship on a grand scale - there are usually valid resons that people want to be your friend and be kind - or be your enemy and want to harm you. I know that's not always the case, but I have this theory that if you are kind and loving to people, most of them will not desire to do you harm.

But keep your guard up, because there are bad apples everywhere.

This is one of the principles of counter-insurgency. Treat the local people with respect. Help them where you can, and they will deny the insurgent the ability to hide among the population. It's a lesson we learned to late in Vietnam.
For what ever reason you do what you do, thank you and great job!

My heartfelt thanks for your service on behalf of our citizens. I have always believed that you can effect positive change one soul at a time. Your description of the hand over the heart to express deep respect gave such a visual picture and is understood even when language is a barrier. Thank you for sharing this and know you and are in our thoughts and prayers. Said many times yet not overstated, come home safely.

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