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.


March 03, 2013

Name: The Afghan Battle Fox
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Clyde, Ohio
Milblog: Afghan Battle Fox's Blog


Read Part One here.

Even in my tent, for the first two weeks or so of going on missions I would jump at the slightest of noises, a person’s touch on the shoulder, or even an unannounced figure standing beside me.

My stomach nervously churned every time I climbed up in my truck to go out. Feeling conflicted, I would toss my assault pack in, climb the metal stairs of the back gate of the uparmored vehicle, fasten my seatbelts, and wait helplessly to arrive at a destination. Unlike the hum of a car engine when I was a young child, the loud low hum of the vehicles engines did not comfort me. With every bump in the road I bounced around, held only slightly in place by the harness that kept me strapped me to my seat. I feared that one of the bumps in the road might hold an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and that a blast was imminent. I would create panic within myself to the point of a cold sweat.

I fought with myself. In part, I was excited and eager to see new places and to photograph this new country that surrounded me, but the pit feeling I had in my stomach often made it hard to be optimistic about each day’s journey.

When we rode through the city, I would look out the side window of my uparmored vehicle and watch Afghan women in blue burqas walking along the dirt road beside us, headed toward a market. I would gaze at young Afghan school boys in their blue shirts and Afghan girls in their white shamaughs on their way to school. I observed older Afghan men working in their road-side shops and younger Afghan men driving carloads of people up and down the paved roads of the city.

Like a lightbulb on a dimmer switch, two things slowly began to occur to me. First, these people were going to the market, to school, and to work -- just like I did back home! I was watching people who were, in these respects, no different from me, my friends, and my family.

Secondly, I realized that nothing hazardous was happening when I went out on my missions. The Afghans were going about their business and I wasn’t even a concern to them. Heck, most of them didn’t even look up at the convoy when we passed them, and the ones that did were waving at us like we were a parade. Waving -- and smiling! Threatening people don’t do that!

I hadn’t lost my sense of awareness, but with each mission I started to feel less and less uptight. The fog created by my fear was beginning to lift, and with my new clarity I was seeing people, not threats.

I grew tired of feeling a constantly exhausting state of nervousness and I knew that I had several months in Afghanistan ahead of me, so I decided that I had to let go of some of my fears. If something was going to happen, it was going to happen, with or without my worrying about it. I wasn’t going to be able to anticipate a negative event, so why stress myself out over it?

It took me nearly a month of missions to ease up on my tension to where the nervousness didn’t exist. As a Soldier, I continued to be apprehensive and cautious. Whether inside or outside the wire, I just didn’t trust anyone, save a couple of close American friends there. I wasn’t like that before I joined the Army. I don’t like that I had changed to become who I was at the beginning of my deployment. I’m actually ashamed of the misconceived thoughts I had about the Afghans.

Threats of violence do not come from an entire population, I told myself. One bad person in a photo or on a video is not indicative of an entire country of threatening people.


"...and the ones that did were waving at us like we were a parade. Waving -- and smiling! Threatening people don’t do that!"

Unless they are politicians...

My cynicism filter couldn't hold that one back ;>)

I think that you were dealing with the fear of the unknown as I assume many soldiers do(and most might not even admit). It is very normal to have fear of the "what if's". You aren't there because there isn't a threat. You are there to ensure the safety of those smiling folks. You and all the soldiers , brave enough to take the oath and serve are so very brave. I'm forever thankful to you and our armed forces. Thank you!

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