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.

MY TWO CENTS |

November 02, 2007

MY TWO CENTS
Name: Doug Templeton
Posting date: 11/2/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Kansas City, MO
Email: dtempleton14@yahoo.com

Why would I want to read Doonesbury.com’s The Sandbox? Not because I have a couple posts in it, not because I have my ugly mug on the back jacket, but because it tells the human story. Contained in its pages are gems of knowledge about what it is like to be there, and how to bridge the gap between cultures, and proof positive that the world can be a better place.

I often read the news stories detailing what is going on in the Middle East. They thoroughly cover the political side of the conflict, and the intricacies of how high ranking officials are attempting to make change in the nuances of the emerging governments, and how money is spent financing the programs. In some cases the cost of doing that business is paid for in the loss of American soldiers -- as well as the human toll being paid by the people of these countries. All this is extremely important and needs to be talked about, but through the eyes of someone who has been there.

What continues to be overlooked and, in my opinion, is the real key to this situation, are the people who are rarely asked for their two cents when it comes to how to move forward. That is the soldier on the ground, the one who interacts with the local population every day and knows the real situation on the streets. That person has the wealth of knowledge I want to leverage. Why are we not asking the soldier the important questions? If you want to know how to milk a cow, would you not ask a farmer? If you want to know how to build a house, would you not ask a carpenter? So why are we not going to the source to ask questions about how to move forward?

During my year in Afghanistan I worked every day with the Afghans, and I had no illusions as to where they were in their development. In the whole time I was there no one ever asked what I thought, other than those who worked with me. We were not only building a military, we were building a country -- and we used our ability to do just that by interacting and developing trust with our Afghan counterparts. We embraced our differences and learned to work together to head toward a common goal.

We are the human story, complete with all our flaws, our highs, our lows, and our experience, a treasure trove of ideas that we employed to make the mission happen. Like all treasures, we tend to be hidden from view and can be lost to time. If I were king for a day, I think I would round up as many of these people as I could and get their ideas about the road ahead. We are the tactical “think tank”, and the best source of what does and does not work. We know the personalities of the various countries' troops, what motivates them to go forward and pull their own country from the brink of danger. We should tap this well before it evaporates.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we are floundering in our effort. I just think we could do it better if we could see the forest through the trees. Remember, no country was ever built by government. Countries are built by the people.   

Comments

This is so true. But as a friend told me once, "You are thinking logically again." Decision makers tend to think that only they can see the whole picture, but it seems to me, a lot of the time they don't know what they are looking at.

Unfortunately that is the functioning of capitalism. A few powerful people in the political realm make the decisions, and our soldiers with the least amount of power are expected to give all, no questions asked. If more people voted for who they wanted to represent them, then maybe soldiers would have a voice. Now THAT would be sweet.

From your mouth (or pen) to God's ear!

Thank you! The soldiers who have served/are serving in either Iraq or Afganistan are truly the only people who know if/what is working to get things done right, and will know when it's the right time to pull the troops out.
As the aunt of a soldier in Bagdad, I'd much rather have him home, but he says it's too soon. Since he's the expert - at the ripe old age of 23 - I have to trust he knows more about it than me. Just like you, I wish the politicians would leave the schedule to pull out troops to the experts.

I can only half agree. I certainly believe that the soldiers on the ground have a much better understanding than the politicians, pundits and citizens back home. However, the true experts, and the ones whose views most matter, are the citizens of these countries we're trying to change. Countries aren't built by governments, but neither are they built by armies.

Right on track, as usual, CPT! Downrange, I felt that there was a series of disconnects in play; first between the Squad Leaders and LTs outside the wire, and the fobbits in the TOCs. Next, between the TOCs and the bigwigs in the Green Zone. Lastly, a HUGE disconnect between the MNCI commanders and the White House/Pentagon. Each disconnect meant that the folks making the decisions were one step removed from the reality on the ground. The people that come up with the ROE and Escalation of Force protocols, or who assign the taskings and then micro-manage them from a safe and antiseptic haven are in the least effective place to make those decisions. For me, sitting for six to eight hours a day, every day, at an IP station, doing damn all, and being expected that this will somehow secure an entire series of mahallahs, it was extremely frustrating. Taking a sniper round through my ACH, and watching my squad run away in response, made me realize that our job was to drive around and stand around and wait to get killed. Even recent statements by the Senate, probing Blackwater's response to VBIEDs, shows me that the power players back home just don't get it. When they say "Well, it sounds like Blackwater shoots first and asks questions later", it shows that they just don't understand the realities on Baghdad streets. You simply don't have the luxury of waiting for the insurgents to take the first shot. Good article, sir, and I'm glad to see officers that understand the reality of the situation. It will be your generation of leaders who will change things, and NCOs like me can't wait for that day to arrive....

Doug,

You hit the nail on the head. From my understanding from some soldiers that I interviewed recently, there are certain things you can talk about, and some that you cannot. From the press' point of view, who better to get a quote from than a high ranking military officer?

The links below are to two articles I wrote for a blog back in my hometown in Lorain. If you don't have any objection, I'd like to use some of what you've written above in a Veteran's Day tribute.

I can be contacted at the above email address.

http://thewomblog.com/?p=181

http://thewomblog.com/?p=538

If there's anything that you'd like to contribute in addition to what's above, I'd really like to hear it.

Thanks much for all that you've done,

Henery

Doug,

You hit the nail on the head. From my understanding from some soldiers that I interviewed recently, there are certain things you can talk about, and some that you cannot. From the press' point of view, who better to get a quote from than a high ranking military officer?

The links below are to two articles I wrote for a blog back in my hometown in Lorain. If you don't have any objection, I'd like to use some of what you've written above in a Veteran's Day tribute.

I can be contacted at the above email address.

http://thewomblog.com/?p=181

http://thewomblog.com/?p=538

If there's anything that you'd like to contribute in addition to what's above, I'd really like to hear it.

Thanks much for all that you've done,

Henery

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