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.

EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES |

April 15, 2010

EATS, SHOOTS AND LEAVES
Name: K
Posting date: 4/15/10
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Embedded in Afghanistan

Thinking back on it, it does seem strange some of the things that went on. You walk around among, shake hands with, and eat and drink in homes of, people you don’t really know and who may not like you. But I never felt any fear in those situations, though I knew some of these people collaborated with insurgents. Pashtuns are hospitable people, and they'll take it to the point that they're equally hospitable to some of our enemies as well.

I’d say we returned the favor and were pretty darn hospitable to local people as well. On one
occasion the local villagers brought men to the base with bullet and shrapnel wounds. Framed K Eats, Shoots and Leaves They looked like Taliban, with their beards and stares, and my interpreter was absolutely convinced that they were. And how does an innocent get bullet and shrapnel wounds anyway? There was generally enough notice given before a battle commenced (often in the form of a single shot cracking off, followed some five seconds later by larger barrages) to allow most people to take cover before things really got crazy. Well, we patched those Taliban up, though they may have been detained for awhile since they had to be shipped away for better care. It’s all part of the game. Patch them up and send them back out to play.

I recall drinking tea and eating nuts with an elder when bullets from across the valley started
impacting near our men outside the house. I immediately put my helmet back on and ran outside to help out, without finishing the nuts or tea, or even saying goodbye or thank you. Afterward, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the bad joke about bad punctuation -- the panda who walked into a restaurant, had a meal, and then shot the place up since a panda is a four legged, furry animal that eats, shoots and leaves. Being a panda, he eats shoots and leaves, but typically does not eat, shoot and leave. Well, Marines sometimes really do eat, shoot, and then leave the area.

Sometimes it's shocking how little we really know about the people we're fighting, but my feeling is that for a lot of these guys we're fighting, especially out in the Korengal, the insurgency is a way of life. It's just what they do, and how they gain respect. Many certainly are ideologically driven -- but not all.

The only time we really got a good look at our enemy was on Friday afternoon at the local mosque or occasionally out playing cricket. All those young men that were missing in the villages during our regular patrols would appear out of the woodwork to attend the mosque on Friday, kind of like Sunday morning church for Americans. Their age, body language, avoidance of eye contact, and lack of response to our greetings told us all we needed to know about the loyalties of those young men. But did being 90% sure that these guys were the ones shooting at us from the ridgelines a couple of times a week mean that we could arrest them and deal with them? No. Not at all. We let them go about their business, only to meet them again in the near future on the "modern" battlefield to play our dangerous little game of long-distance target practice.

Comments

There's something like a medieval joust about the Afghan war from your report. I wonder if getting respect is a big part of winning.

Good post and good info. Please keep it up. Speaking of something similar, you can get custom military dog tags with your text at http://custommilitarydogtags.com/military-dog-tags/custom-military-dog-tags/black-dog-tag-1-pair

thanks for a view into the war. I don't now know why we're there. good luck.

I got a shiver along my spine reading this post. I retired a year ago this month thank you for your service and keep your head down Brother!

well this blog is great i love reading your articles.

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