Politics by Other Means

COP Shangri-La, Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan:

I’m sitting here starting to type this week’s update when I hear a loud gunshot ring out from over the tent. I grab my weapon and head outside to find the ANA Commander, let’s call him Captain Pacino, shooting his personal Rem 700 .308 from a watchtower in an undershirt. I quizzically looked at the nearest Zabet, he mimed a rifle in his hands spoke in unintelligible Dari melody, then said Taliban. I realize the situation is wildly different, but I was oddly reminded of the scene from Schindler’s List where the guy is shooting people from his balcony. Our ANA Commander is a local and knows everyone in the surrounding area. He is a bit of a cowboy and tends to roll out to villages with nothing but a pistol. There are tales of him leaving solo and coming back with hogtied TB in tow. There will be more about him in the dedicated ANA update which I’m saving for the right time.

[Steps on to soap box.]

(Note: these updates are written over a period of time, so what follows is technically old news) 

Ok, citizens, it is now time to write your congressman/woman. The pay issue is causing much grumbling and is lowering morale at an alarming rate. As much as it ticks me off, I know I will get back pay and, knock wood, don’t have any child support payments or massive debt. My soldiers? They have these things. The military is supposed to be the most stable of jobs, a constant paycheck these men can rely on to support their families. Sure, you’d expect the Army to have some sort of contingency for this sort of thing. Nope. The best advice they can give to my soldiers is to take out a loan to cover these expenses. Oh, good. Let’s send them into more debt, crush their already tiny credit scores, and incur fees. There are no loan officers out here in Zhari, no Bank of America they can stop by. Whatever back pay these guys get won’t include an additional sum to cover any late fees on house payments or bills. Everyone is hurting though, right? Suffer together, suffer equally? Nope. Our congressmen/women and the President will get their paychecks on time and none of them are getting shot at.

And now I’ll remove the proverbial foot from my mouth. I’ve just been informed by my peers that the situation has been resolved, at least for now. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need, I suppose. The point still stands, and my boys will still be getting shot at when the band-aid falls off. Our elected officials who sent us over here will still be getting paid to eat fresh crab and drink scotch older than I at the National Grill. We patrol, we fight, and it shouldn’t be too much to ask for my men to get paid. Every day these guys do what is expected of them, and they expect to be sustained. Ask any historian, “when Rome forgot her legions, her legions forgot her.”

[Steps down from soap box.]

Pink plus signs galore out here in Zhari. Three of my soldiers have informed me this week that their significant others or otherwise have been upgraded to baby mamas. Hearty handshakes and congratulations are in order, of course. I should have seen this coming, now is the suitable time gap between the day we left and the appropriate cycle tardiness. Talking to my guys about it can be difficult though. My seniors will know what to do, and how to be responsible about being parents. Hell, most of them already are. It is the younger guys that are hard to talk to. I have exactly zero experience with having children, so telling a 20 year old about the pitfalls and responsibilities of pregnancy and child rearing seems a bit hypocritical. One of these distinguished baby mamas is still a teenager and is unsure about retaining the child. I’ll need to think about how to approach this one. When in doubt, refer to the Platoon Sergeant, he’ll know what to do. For now, someone needs to get on the horn to MTV’s Teen Mom and get a camera crew out here.

They allowed us to wear our combat patches this last week. The Squadron’s ceremony happened at FOB Wilson, so the Troop wasn’t there. The Troop ceremony happened while my platoon was on patrol so we weren’t at either. We got back and lined up next to the guidon while the CO and the First Sergeant gave us all patches. It seems like they did it backwards. They gave the combat patches first to the guys who haven’t been shot at yet, then worked their way down the the people who were among the first to hear the unmistakeable pop. Whatever. It seemed so important to me a few months ago to have a patch on my right shoulder to prove my credibility. Out here, your credibility comes straight out of your success-to-dumbass ratio. It will probably become important to me again when I get back, but right now it’s just fabric.

It has occurred to a few of my readers and I that the Taliban themselves may be reading these updates. I hope they do, those yellow-bellied pederasts, shielding themselves behind innocent people. They blew up another local two days ago, double amputee, poor guy. The victim was farming with his cousin when he stepped on a bomb meant for us. I sometimes wonder about why the population at large puts up with them. In a place like Texas, if someone came onto your land and said, “Howdy! I’m going to plant bombs on your property to support my cause, and if you tell anybody about it I’ll kill you,” I’d bet the sucker would find himself with buckshot on the mind. One of the most satisfying things out here is when a Taliban planting or arming an IED blows himself up. It happens more than you would think. They tend to do it themselves, the Afghan people seem have enough gumption to ignore requests to bury them, so I am always happy when a bomb meant for me or some kid finds it’s way back to the creator.

The ANA found a volleyball. Hilarity ensued. They started to play an odd combination of hackysack and volleyball which involves in two rows of people facing each other. They mimic the setting motion, sometimes they try hitting it with both hands. After a hit or two it usually degrades to kicking and the ball flies towards moderately important things like a fuse box, a generator, or the cook. Oh, and the Helmand Globe Trotters also lack a net. Please don’t send one.

Staying nine and a half hours ahead, HE heavy, and until next time faithful readers,

1LT Wm Treadway

2/A/4-4 Cavalry

SPC Barroga prepares for a patrol.

A Section before the patch ceremony.

Poppy fields in bloom.

Trying to convince them to turn over Taliban caches.

PVT Hastings talks to a local.

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2 Responses to Politics by Other Means

  1. cynshep says:

    I did write both my congress, uh, persons about the military pay idiocy. I’ve written them about other matters in the past and gotten gracious canned replies written by an aide, but this time no reply has arrived. I think they got snowed under by nasty letters on this one. I think it’s safe to say that NO ONE from the real world thought military pay should be stopped. It would be WRONG. And I’m hoping there won’t be too many of these entrenched politicians left after the next election to screw things up for regular people while living the high life and exempting themselves from what they do to the rest of us. (Please God the populace sees the light.)

    You be careful out there.

    Cindy

  2. cynshep says:

    I’m really enjoying your photos too! Thanks!

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