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GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

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January 10, 2008

Name: Adrian B.
Posting date: 1/10/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog url: TheSatiristAtWar

Whenever there's a dispute between Afghans we go for our best interpreter, a guy I'll call "Doc." Doc does a good job of translating, is awesome at telling us what's going on between the lines, and is eager to work no matter the time or circumstances (this has been tested on many occasions).

So Saturday rolls around and there's a huge blow-up between two sets of Afghans. Each wants to do whatever emotional harm they can to the other, to provoke them into some physical attack which will blow all their credibility with the Coalition Forces.

We have a sit down with the two sides; myself, the CO, and -- of course -- Doc. The talk is long, the stakes are high, and after an hour of back-and-forth, due mainly to my keeping my own counsel (I am in a particularly bad mood due to being awoken after three hours of sleep) and the CO's quick-thinking mediation skills, we have a compromise in sight that looks good for everyone.

It is at this stage in the negotiations -- the final stretch, when everything is coming together -- that Doc gives in to a weird impulse, one which he obeys whenever it arises. We'll call it the "party" impulse.

Keep in mind that the meeting is still very much in progress. Everyone's still at the table, no agreement has been reached about anything (though agreement appears inevitable, perhaps within the next 5-10 minutes).

Doc stops translating for one of the sides in mid sentence, is silent for a couple seconds, then looks at me.

"Sir, what do you think about a party?"

I'm a little confused. "Uh... What?"

"I would like to have a party tonight. You and the Commander, and LT R , and LT D, must come to the party."


"When would be a good time for the party?"

The Afghans sitting at the table are not really understanding what's going on. Fortunately. I've seen this happen on two other occasions. When Doc gets the idea to throw a party, nothing stands in his way. It's almost enough to counterbalance his other great qualities as a terp -- good knowledge of English and Pashtun, honesty, dedication -- the chance that, at any given moment, no matter what the setting, he will suddenly think: "Hey, I should throw a party."

One time it happened in the middle of a synch meeting between us and the ANA, and he wouldn't shut up about parties until we'd promised to attend and hashed out the particulars. So it was on this day. It didn't matter that we were in the middle of negotiating an important settlement between two factions that would otherwise be shooting at each other. What we thought of parties was similarly not taken into consideration. The only thing that mattered to Doc at that moment was that we make a solid plan to have a party, that night, and that we commit to attending the party at a specific time.

That agreement reached, we got back to resolving a dispute that, untended, would certainly have boiled over into violence, and ten minutes later everyone was shaking hands.

Doc knows how to negotiate. He holds the two disputants over the fire until they both promise to respect one another (using, I imagine, the same techniques of social hostage-taking he had employed with myself and the CO moments before). Before everyone went their separate ways, though, Doc had one more thing he wanted to say.

"Sir, if you could invite CPT L to the party, it would be better."

"Sure, Doc, I'll do that, no problem."

"It will be the best party!"

"We'll be there."

Out of this insanely inappropriate talk of parties I suddenly had a flash of insight. Before leaving, I invited the disputing factions to the party. It ended up being a good move.

Afghans love a good party, like anyone, even if there's no booze or women there (my understanding of a "party" is understandably different from theirs -- I've made my peace with that). And nobody knows parties like Doc.


Party on, Doc.

Exceptional! This terp has your interests at heart. PLEASE, Please, please LISTEN to him. He's giving it to you old school. If it's cool, you might;

1. Have a marksmanship exihibition.
2. A show of martial skills. Swords, unarmed, knives, whatever. Let these two clash with referees.
3. A show and tell of the greatest heroes both/all sides have. Make sure you have a dog in the race.
4. Splurge on the eats. Nothing like two goats to make a man feel really, really full. And, hey, a full belly is a precursor to civilization.

Love ya man! Yer on the right track. Party hearty and let those folks feel the love. You ARE winning.

live every day like it's your last. the world salutes doc

It wasn't until I read these comments that I realized I've been looking at this all wrong. College me is shaking his head in disappointment and shame.

Some person whose name I should remember commented that "laughter is a vacation"--doc seems to know you all need to take one whenever you can

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