January 10, 2007

Name: SGT Brandon White
Posting date: 1/10/07
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Diamond, Ohio
Milblog url:
Email: [email protected]

There they are, staring each other down, perhaps five feet between them as the day's dying sun sinks behind the peaks. The faint cawing of a bird breaks the relative silence of the camp. The wind picks up for a moment or two and dies back down, and I register the slight rustling of the dried leaves of The Tree. I turn my eyes back to the current spectacle as the two men begin the ancient dance of "the fight". They begin side-stepping in a counter-clockwise direction, each keeping his distance, knees slightly bent, arms out, anticipating the other's attack.

For a couple of weeks now, these two have been giving each other sour looks, looks that convey, "My testicles are infinitely larger than yours" and, "Watch your step, pal." The American is a large boy, barely 19. I distinctly remember him telling me his combat uniform had to be custom made. Ironically, my platoon leader made him a gunner on an M1114 hummer. I remember him jutting out of the top of the hummer, squatted down so much that his knees almost came down to the platform on the interior of the vehicle. His mass filled almost every inch of the hatch from which he protruded, and that helmet on his head -- well, on a kid that size, it looked rather absurd, like a yarmulke with a chin-strap.

His adversary is one of our interpreters, his polar opposite in just about every way. The Terp is a little older, perhaps 22. He is lean but muscular, with the steely-eyed look of a man who grew up with extreme hardship. He is also about four inches shorter than his opponent. Without skipping a beat, the Terp abruptly changes direction, now circling clockwise. The American follows suit, moving slowly, being careful not to trip, but his eyes never leave his opponent's. A weak haze of dust has kicked up, their movement creating a circular swath in the dirt. As for me, well, I am sprawled out comfortably on a canvas chair, watching the showdown commence. As a Sergeant I know it is my job to step in if it turns ugly, but I know it won't, from the slight smirks that are apparent at the corners of their mouths. This is what we do when the boredom sets in and the testosterone levels remain high.

All at once they halt. I am unable to discern who stopped first. Perhaps it was telepathically communicated between them, the way a pro-boxer knows his opponent will not again rise after that final blow, and holds up his right fist in victory before the ref has even finished counting the numbers. A fellow sergeant of mine joins me on the adjacent chair, lighting up a cigarette, eyes affixed on the two buffoons. He doesn't bother asking me what is happening. With an abundnace of time on our hands, sights like this are common here in Afghanistan. While exhaling that first draw through his nostrils he shouts, "Kick his ass, C-Bass!". The two men don't dare look our way, each fearful of the other's first lunge.

"Come, you big pussy!" the Terp shouts at his foe. Only it comes out as: "Come, you beek poosy!" At this, Big Boy lunges forward. The Terp tries to dodge but is brought down. For a moment all I can see is a mass of camoflouged uniform amid a rapidly densing dust cloud. And then out pops a scrawny arm from underneath, with a fist that connects with Big Boy's ribcage. At this, I am able to discern an almost laughingly, "Ow-how! You little fucker!" The other Sergeant and I burst out laughing.

Big Boy gets to one knee while the 'Terp scrambles to his feet and assumes a position directly behind. "Yes! What you think of that? Huh?", Terpy shouts. From out of nowhere I catch a flash in the corner of my eye. Before I can make sense of it, my Commander is at the crime scene, and like a 14-year-old gym class bully, quickly pulls Terpy's running shorts down to his knees and backs away.Terpy buckles and goes down while trying to cover his exposed crotch, trying to pull up his shorts, and shouting a string of what can only be obscenities in his native tongue, Dari. After the laughter dies down, I walk back to my room and can't help but think, "All in a day's work."


this is a GREAT story! thanks for sharing! take care.

When you tell a story, its like we are sitting right next to you in a canvas chair watching it with you... Thanks ...

Great story. I have been watching the military channel about Afghanistan and our troops. This story adds a bright poinht of view.

Here from the sidelines, it seems like a bad idea to risk alienating an interpeter, even with boredom and testosterone factored in. Some people take getting pantsed seriously. For an American, it may not be terrible, but in a repressive culture, things may be very different. I personally would really, really want the interpeter on my side at all times.


You would probably be right for the average Afghani, but not 'Terps. These guys have been around Americans for a few years now and they joke around with us and get the best of us sometimes. Many of them are in the process of becoming American citizens themselves. I assure you that this was all done in the name of boredom and hilarity, of which both sides shared.

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