Today was a “crawling” day, meaning our instructors pushed, pulled coaxed and carried us through the exercise to help us get accustomed to the “battle rhythm” of the exercise. The planning for the KLE took hours – covering the priority topics of engagement, mission objectives, contingency planning, logistics, movements, staging , and more. We had KLE with tribal elders (mostly Afghan Americans recruited to play the part) – who greeted us warmly, served us tea, then proceeded to lay into us with a litany of grievances, both real and otherwise, involving civilian casualties caused by a NATO airstrike, and an apparently endless list of demands/requests for development projects and other assistance. Then things went south as tribal tensions were laid bare, accusations flew and voices went up. I was deeply disappointed my Dari is so rudimentary that I couldn’t follow the conversation and pick up what clearly pass for four letter words in that context. Luckily our SecFor (security forces) aka our military escort refrained from intervening to pull us out Navy Seal style, which they are clearly dying to do (and which I suspect I will be tempted to indulge them with). Once the theatrics were complete we were on hugging terms and looking forward to working together. If these cats are half as authentic as they look and sound I’m going to really enjoy the genuine warmth and hospitality that radiates from them.
(KLE = Key Leader Engagement – or for old fashioned folks like myself "meeting")