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.

HOW I GOT TO BE HERE |

September 19, 2012

Name: Jen Neuhauser
Deploying to: Afghanistan
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
Milblog: Expeditionary Lawyer


Kabul University in the 60s. (Foreign Policy Magazine)

Being an AfPak Hand is an unusual job for a US Army JAG officer, so I wanted to take some time to explain my reasons for joining the program.

Last summer I was stationed in Germany, in a dream location with wonderful people. I had four day weekends once a month. I went to Paris...twice. And yet I felt like I wasn't accomplishing much. The people I worked with were so bright and so efficient that there wasn't much left for me to do at the end of the day. I felt pretty useless most of the time. 

I started scanning the JAG webpage for deployment opportunities. I saw something about learning a new language, deploying to Afghanistan. Actually working with the people you are supposed to be helping. To steal a phrase from the Navy, to actually be part of a "Global Force for Good." I talked with my husband and emailed branch. Four months later I learned I had been selected for the program.

I am hoping that my time downrange will allow me to help make the world a better place. I know that sounds saccharine and cheesy, but 18 years into my military career* I've learned that some cliches have staying power because they are often true. God and country. Mom and apple pie. Being part of something that is bigger than oneself. Making history. 

Much like what happened in Afghanistan in the 90s, what we do or fail to do today can have an impact for generations. Though many, if not most taxpayers would like to declare victory and go home we can't do that...not yet.  To borrow a line from "Charlie Wilson's War": These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame.**

Like many people, I am deeply troubled by some of the stories coming out of Afghanistan, particularly the treatment of women and children. And though I don't believe we can change a people's culture or beliefs, I do believe we can change the narrative by showing them that there can be a better way, and by giving them the safety and stability to make those positive, life affirming choices. I want to be part of that.

I stumbled across the picture above in this article on Foreign Policy's website. If you haven't read "Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan," I highly encourage you to do so. Though the tone of the article is somewhat depressing ("Remembering Afghanistan's hopeful past only makes its present misery seem more tragic"), the author notes "it is important to know that disorder, terrorism, and violence against schools that educate girls are not inevitable." I believe that if it was once that way then it can be again. There are reasons for hope. 

*18 years counts my time in the National Guard. I came in in 1993 as a Finance Soldier.
** If you haven't seen it, it's about how we funneled money to the Mujahadeen when they were fighting the Soviets, and then called it a day when the Soviets withdrew, which then left a vacuum for the Taliban to assume power.

Comments

Jen,
Great post! Glad you're in the Sandbox.
Looking forward to seeing you downrange.
Ty

Hi Jen,
We have been assigned to this milblog as part of our college English assignment, and I must admit that I, myself, am ashamed of the fact that I haven't read any of it before. I very much honor you and the work that you have done. It was nice to hear the words hope! It's not a term used in your line of work often. I wish you the best of luck with your new program.

Jen,
I just learned of this milblog from my college English class, and I really enjoy all of the articles I have been able to read...especially yours. I appreciate all of the work you do. Good luck with everything and God Bless!

Jen,
I liked reading your post, and really admire your positive attitude about the future despite all the things that are going on now. Thank you for the work you do, and God bless!

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