Overtime with Americans
Written by Nathan Gallahan   
Thursday, 11 March 2010 12:54

FOB Shank | Day 31 – We’re in overtime! Due to the travel delays, we weren’t able to get to all of the regions in 30 days, so we’ve extended our trip until Sunday. We are now in Regional Command East, the “bread basket” of Afghanistan, or so I have been told.

The goal now is to cover eastern Afghanistan. Throughout the trip we’ve been heavily concentrating on all of the international forces in Afghanistan. Looking back, I wish we could have covered more. There are 44 contributing nations here, and it’s really easy to write the number but it’s really hard to show what that number really means. Some countries are contributing thousands of troops while others are contributing a few. Other countries, like Japan, have contributed more than $5 Billion dollars to various projects in this country. We could spend years talking about all of this, but we’re restricted to 30 days because Ken and I are really looking forward to going back to our families.

Now that we’re in east, we’re going to cover the United States and its involvement here. The U.S. is the greatest contributor of troops in country. Most at FOB Shank are American, which is a far cry from the other places we’ve been to. In north and west there were only a few Americans.

It’s a shame really, because the one country we haven’t talked to is the Czech Republic. They run a provincial reconstruction team out here. It sounds like we’ll have a really busy schedule with the American “Joes” though, so we won’t have an opportunity to talk with the Czechs much.

I’m a little nervous to be honest. From past experiences the American Joes seem tired and less friendly than their European counterparts. They are professionals to the core with discipline and mission completion at the fore front of their minds. The Joes are very well trained to follow rules of engagement and to know mission objectives. You give them something to do and it will be done. You tell them to take that hill and they will give their lives to accomplish it. But some of these guys are in really strange positions here.

Before 30 Days began, I was out running around in an MRAP with some U.S. Army soldiers. Each time they rounded a corner, the street would be full of Afghan civilians. The turret gunner was up top and he would yell and scream at the Afghans to get out of the way. After they made it through, the driver and copilot commended the turrets use of colorful and emotional language.

Later on I got a chance to know these soldier s. A few weeks prior, they were in some close quarter c ombat and saw one of their friends killed. They talked about how frustrated they were with the Taliban hiding in the population and how you never knew who the anti-Afghan fighters were. They knew people who had been attacked out of the blue. They had multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and a couple of them were divorced due to the amount of time they’ve spent deployed. They told me how they knew not all Afghans were Taliban but how hard it was to treat them with kindness when their friend was just killed by someone who looks like all the people on the street.

I realized then, counter insurgency doesn’t only reside within the hearts and minds of the Afghans, but within Joe too. You can order a soldier to take a hill but you can’t order him to genuinely care for Afghans.

It’s like these ground pounders and Afghans are locked into this strange and difficult relationship that requires a key still being constructed out of time, patience and levels of understanding yet to be invented.

Now that we’ve arrived here at FOB Shank, my first impression of these U.S. Army soldiers is they’re true professionals; they take their jobs seriously and care about counter insurgency. As we go on missions it will be interesting to learn and hear about their personal experiences and discover what challenges they face in a not-so-friendly region of Afghanistan. Stay tuned.

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Comments (3)add comment

ritagirls said:

This is a Good writing, wow, it is wonderful,I'm interested in these right,Thank you for talking about this topic, I have benefited a lot from and also expect you to update your work!!!
December 28, 2010
Votes: +0

dennis said:

Team in overtime.
Glad your carrying on.All so see from a web site,the 173rd from Shank is in competition with the ANA commander's cup. well done team.
March 11, 2010
Votes: +0

Michelle said:

So glad you are going into overtime! Hope you have a good time with the Americans. Looking forward to your next update.
March 11, 2010
Votes: +0

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