I really miss those guys. I really hope that they're all doing well. They are great guys. I also realize how very blessed and lucky we were to have them.
Our new team is from New York. Upstate New York, to be precise. They are led by SSG Smokey Jackalacker and include CPL Skippy Mynah and SPC Aress. They are very different from our South Carolinians. Good kids, I'm sure, but different.
I'm trying to help them through that early phase of adjustment to Afghanistan. SSG Jackalacker in particular is having a rough time with the adjustment. He's one of those guys with a bizarre idealized image of some kind of GI Joe combat thing. That's just not what we're dealing with here.
The thing is that I remember what it felt like to arrive in Afghanistan and that wide-eyed feeling about everything. I'm trying to give them a sense of reality before I leave. I don't have to; they will find it on their own. I've also come to realize that sometimes you just can't teach them.
SSG Jackalacker hates the message so much and is so resistant that I've actually begun to worry about him. I am responsible for what happens, so I cannot have someone who doesn't "get it" running around. But, I should probably relax and just let him adjust. It's just that sometimes it seems like he is just not living in the real world.
The look of horror on his face when I explained counterinsurgency to him was amazing. He was truly mortified. And he is totally bored with that whole subject. He keeps talking about things like "crossing the objective."
I've never seen anyone here cross an objective.
Perhaps I'm just trying too hard to make it easier for them and one thing is for sure; he's not taking it well. He actually went into some kind of funk after learning that much of the time over here will be spent just watching people and places. I told him not to worry; he will get shot at.
Just not at a time and place of his choosing. It's his job to run around doing his job, and then someone will shoot at him when it seems really inconvenient. Then, after that, he won't have any special desire to be shot at again.
I think that he thought that he was going to be hunting Taliban every day. Snooping around the rocks, tossing grenades into every suspect cave opening and generally scaring the living hell out of everything; walking like some kind of KISS band member through quivering Afghan villages who will toss their Talibs out in the street just so that this otherworldly killing machine will be satisfied and leave them alone.
He even dresses like a cartoon character. Most of us wear our armor, but not the overly bulky DAPs (Deltoid armor that goes around your upper arms and will only stop a pistol round, but they are huge.) We all wear our DAPs in the turret if we have them, but he wears them all the time and so do the other two. He also seems to have attached everything he owns to his body armor, and the knee pads. Then he keeps wearing this neoprene face mask. He looks like some kind of fugitive from Dragonball Z or something.
I told him I don't like the face mask. It makes him look inhuman. We already look like space creatures to these people. Plus, when we dress up so wrapped in armor, we definitely look afraid to them.
That was explained to me by an Afghan once. He asked why a team of people who came into the area we were working in were all staying in all of their armor, hiding in their vehicles and turrets. I asked him what he thought.
"I think they don't like us. I think they are afraid of us. Afraid someone will hurt them."
He claims it keeps his face warm. Uh huh. It wasn't COLD today and he wore it. I think that he WANTS to look unreal. I think he thinks it's cool. I know that it's not. I know that the people need to see him as a human being.
I hope he catches on. I'm trying to keep in mind that it's still very early on for them. They are doing a lot of good things, but then there's the cartoonish thinking, and I just walk away shaking my head.
So I really miss my naturally outgoing South Carolinians with their common sense approach to uniform issues and no special love for Japanese cartoon characters. They just took care of business without giving so much thought to actually looking menacing. They knew that what kept them safe was that anyone who looked at them knew that they were paying attention.