Sunday, March 4, 2012

Leftover Bits and Peices

There is a widely-told story in Afghanistan that when God finished making the world he collected all the odd bits and peices that did not fit anywhere else, threw them down, and created Afghanistan.

This is a collection of some bits and peices of my own that mark my memories of this quirky, beautiful, troubled and wonderful place.

Cultural quirks

In a twist of logic that remains a mystery to me - my Korean hosts insist on a closed door policy for offices, meetings etc. - but keep bathroom doors open - sometimes including when they are in use (in a gender-mixed building).  So far the one Korean that I dared to ask about the matter seemed to think I was trying to make a joke and offered no explanation.

While proud and fierce - the Governor - who regales visitors with stories of personally defending his compound against suicide bombers, was very comfortable having an impromptu medical checkup in his office with a half-dozen guests in attendance explaining his pains to a bemused but well-poised army doctor who yielded to his insistence that he do a quick examination, and I am simply glad that the condition was a lower back issue, and not a more sensitive region.

He is also very gregarious fellow who follows the Afghan custom of being friendly by getting up close and personal, giving lots of hugs, putting his (very large) hands on your knee, back etc. All this is pretty standard, but in a gesture of hospitality and affection that is hard to top, the Governor paused a meeting we were holding, slowly reached down below the table (luckily a glass one so I knew he wasn't going for his AK-47) and then with a swift and powerful blow, killed the fly on my knee (the far one, since his hand had remained motionless on the closer one).

Texaco Station

At the beginning of my training - and repeatedly since I have been struck by the pride and unity of my military brethren, and often wondered what a State Department version of the Warriors Creed might look like, and even started drafting one until I realized it would probably get me in trouble - so I'll just share theirs and keep my job, for now at least.

The Soldier's Creed / Warrior Ethos / Warrior Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

While there are of course inept (or at least quirky) soldiers, the vast majority of them exemplify this code, and genuinely want to see good things happen in Afghanistan.  Papa Duck, my military counterpart is a fine example of this. Leaving behind a family and a civilian career which he enjoys, he inherited an evolving mission and a shrinking team to accomplish it. Undaunted, he has shaped and reshaped his team to get everything possible done to build up our little corner of Afghanistan and the people who live here. I decided on his title due to his focus on the part of the creed that puts the team first, as he always has the welfare of his subordinates as his priority, and never fails to do everything he can for them. Graciously, he has even taken me under his wing (so to speak) - offering to pick up supplies from BAF, making sure I arrived safely after a trip, teaching me all kinds of useful things about guns, knives, grenades, body armor etc. etc. etc. and generally ensuring that neither I nor his other ducklings wander into harms way.

one of my favorite photos showing of our soldiers playing volleyball with afghan soldiers and police

1 comment:

  1. Love that photo, you're post too, of course, but as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. Thanks for sharing, as always!