COP Shangri-La, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:
Yes, the Taliban fear Taylor Swift. Just a given? No, I’ve reached this conclusion through a fusion of careful battlefield analysis and counterinsurgency doctrine. By the end of this update, you’ll agree. I know some are thinking: “Gee Will, I swore you and Taylor broke up months ago.” Well, you’re right, we did. I told her after that song about me belonging to her that it was getting too possessive and clingy and maybe we needed space. Then she said something about crying on her guitar and burning my picture, but I wasn’t paying attention. Oh, and by the way, the “stupid pickup truck [I] never let [her] drive” has been in Kansas while she’s been on tour. She was welcome to come drive it whenever she wanted to. I didn’t see her once.
Spring has sprung. The grape vines are starting to grow, and the poppy fields even have a few bright red flowers in them. I’ll try to get a picture next time I see one. The farmers are getting agitated now when we walk through their fields. Of course, it wasn’t a problem when our boots helped till for them, only now that we are stepping through their plants do they get ticked. A guy was yelling at my patrol, so I grabbed the tarjiman (interpreter) and talked to irate yokel. He was pissed, with reason, that we were stomping all over his precious opium poppies. I leveled with him and mentioned that we could stop walking through his fields if he helped us stop the Taliban from planting bombs. He didn’t want to talk after that.
A few nights ago I heard fire off in the distance. Off in the distance against the moonlit silhouette a battle raged between ground forces, Kiowa helicopters and the Taliban. As happy as I was not to be in that TIC (Troops in Contact), it was very cool to watch the Kiowas swoop and spray at night. Their .50 cal machine guns fire at a very fast rate, much faster then our classic M2s. They spit tracer fire on to the fleeing Taliban and the main fight was soon over. This was followed by a very peaceful quiet for bedtime. The nights here are impressive even without a show. Unlike Houston, you can actually see stars, and the magnitude is magnificent.
Back to Taylor. Some days ago, we drove up to FOB Wilson. My driver began humming over the intercom, what soon became apparent as a song written by my ex. I noticed a spotter watching our movement off to the east, just as my gunner joined in on the tune. The spotter continued to observe us as we rolled down the road. I must admit, despite our unpleasant break up, I joined in as well. I’m not sure if the spotter could hear us over the road noise, but for the sake of my argument being right I will assume he could. Soon after, he turned tail and left. I therefore must assume he left in shear uncontrollable fear brought on by this pop country star. Almost the exact same thing happened on our most recent mission. We were on trucks, and heard the Taliban were bringing up an 82mm Recoilless Rifle to literally rain on our parade. As a few nervous minutes passed, my driver again began to sing. This time he was belting “Back to December,” but I could not join in as my face was glued to a pair of binoculars (an eighty-two mike mike will tear one of our trucks in half, despite the armor). The impending attack never came, and I owe it all to my ex.
Some days there are quiet patrols. Really though, that’s just how it happens sometimes. During one of these quiet patrols, my medic treated three local nationals. One poor child had an infected penis from a badly cared for circumcision, another man had burned his ankle on a motorcycle exhaust (these people do not believe in riding gear), and the third, another child, had deeply cut his foot on a piece of glass. My doc, a ginger by nature, is a stud. He didn’t complain at all helping these folks. Sitting in the middle of a field, he cleaned the last kid’s cut out and sutured it up in less than fifteen minutes. Try getting that kind of speed at your county hospital. It is worth noting that my Doc is under 25, and had no med school training, no rotation in the ER, just is very good at his job. The crappy part about it is that with all his skill and qualification, the best job he could get in the civilian world is an entry level EMT. If he sewed up an American kid in the back of an ambulance, not only would he get fired, but likely sued as well. Thankfully personal injury lawyers haven’t made it here yet. Most likely because it takes quite a bit more effort to chase a wheelbarrow than it does to drive behind an ambulance.
Next to a tent, the platoon put up some camo netting to make a hang out. My soldiers have dubbed this place “Ray’s Boom Boom Room,” a nod to the Martin Lawrence film Life. SGT Cunningham has a hookah that he loads up with double-apple flavored tobacco. We were out smoking the hookah when an ANA Zabet (sergeant) came in and joined us. Then a couple of the interpreters. We made some good foreign relations and we discussed pop culture. The ANA love American women, especially celebrities. Most of them have been so sheltered in their upbringing that the idea of a thin blonde woman with long legs and blue eyes as a wife being an unachievable prospect. What do you know, my driver was sitting there too and mentioned Ms. Swift, even showed the Zabet his calendar. Eyes wide, he explained that this is what the Taliban don’t want. Not so much for the religious aspect, but that the image of a woman becoming successful at her age would shatter credibility. The Taliban fear Taylor Swift.
As the poet laureate Jay-Z once rapped, “I don’t want much, I drove every car. Some nice cooked food, some nice clean drawers.” Laundry would be nice, but right now it is too easy to send my soldiers up to FOB Wilson for a few hours. Nice clean drawers would be at a premium if anyone wore them. Most of us have been commando since the day we left the States. To prevent another sandstorm from ruining our ability to shower, SPC Mattson is constructing a building. Local contractors dug a well for us, and the pump is all hooked up. Once finished, the troop will get a chance to shower. We received today a “combat kitchen” or CK and a couple of cooks to provide us with hot chow. The name strikes me as odd. The kitchen isn’t fighting, and no one carries it on patrol to emplace it for direct action against the TB. I feel as though it should be named “safe-back-at-the-COP-with-no-effects-on-the-enemy kitchen” or SBATCOPWNEOTEK, to more accurately reflect its role. I’m grateful though, like Jay-Z said, “I’ve got 99 problems but a kitchen aint one.” I think.
Oh, and if for some incredible reason you’re reading this Taylor, I’ll be back next year if you need a date to the CMT Awards or whatever. I cut a crisp outline in my blues and am far better groomed than John Mayer.
Staying nine and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,
1LT Wm Treadway