The More Things Change...
Witness this post on Afghanistan Shrugged, the best (IMO) soldier milblog in Afghanistan right now. Longwarrior would be right up there, too, but he's been unable or uninspired to post. Longwarrior's latest bespeaks the disillusionment that sets in upon exposure to the Afghan reality; the stuff they don't teach you at Ft Riley.
In any case, Vampire06 is doing a fabulous job of conveying the feeling of doing your best with some pretty workable Afghans all while having your hands tied behind your back by both your chain and the parallel ISAF chain. His frustration is evident, and I empathize completely. Working with the Afghans gave a real sense of satisfaction, while the American chain offered so much frustration and contradiction.
It's not like the Afghans don't offer their own frustrations. Corruption, favoritism, nepotism, clannish parochialism; they abound. But you expect that you will have these challenges from the Afghans. You don't expect that you are going to be given advice by Camp Phoenix with such ridiculousness as "don't drink the chai, don't eat the food." You don't expect your higher headquarters to tell you how to insult your charges and set yourself up for failure.
Or deny you illumination from your own 60mm mortars so that you can see the bad guys that you are almost on top of. Vampire06 has one of those "Oh, what the hell?" moments and describes his evening in detail.
Vampire06 is not the first one to experience this type of thing. He apparently, sadly, won't be the last. We have a tremendous ability to gather information. How cool is it that the TOC 100 miles away could see this situation unfolding on the ground? It's really really cool; except when the ability to gather information outstrips our ability to trust our subordinates and simply provide them the information that would help them instead of shackling them while they have bad guys in their sights.
Same old stuff. Keep in mind that Vampire06 isn't the lone ranger. He's not the only one out there that this type of thing is happening to. He's just the one writing about it. It happens much more often than that.
Keep it up, Vampire06. You're doing a great job. Sounds like you've arrived with your Afghans, which is the coolest thing. That trust and ability to influence is the best thing. No matter what else, you are doing what you are there to do. Try to let the rest of it slide and keep trying. Hope your comms always work. Funny how fragile those radios can be. Sometimes they sound just like someone is crumpling cellophane (like from a cigarette pack) up in front of the mike. Hope that never happens to yours.
No Flag For Sparky
Chromed Curses has brought it to the fore that there is a fireman who has been told to remove the American flag from his helmet. Goes against department policy to show pride in your country, it seems.
Fire Chief Mark Roche's email address is: email@example.com . Just sayin'...
New FM 7-0 Discussion at Blackfive
BG Abe Abrams has put up a guest post over at Blackfive and an opportunity to discuss the new FM 7-0 Training For Full Spectrum Operations. This is the companion piece to the recently released directive ordering that the Army will become proficient at IW, and is a significant change in the Army's doctrine.
Readers are encouraged to post comments which BG Abrams has been responding to. This is an unusual opportunity to "discuss" the new manual with one of the proponents. Blackfive even has a link provided to download the new manual. You can also find downloadable FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency and FM 3-0 Operations at the same site.
Stick a fork in...
Loopy Libertarian also points out this bit of unbelievable outrageousness. Sallie Mae, it seems, is the absolute epitome of corporate philanthropy. Unless you are a recently deceased Marine, that is.
2LT McVey's Congressman is Rep Edward Markey, by the way. Just sayin'.
Now for the good news...
Go see the new FabLab computer lab in Jalalabad. Wonderful wonderful stuff. Someone needs corporate sponsors or something.
One last thing...
I got an email from a reader who is coordinating Afghan exchange students for the coming year. Due to an unannounced project, I will probably not be in the position to take a young Afghan into my home, but out there, somewhere in the blogosphere, someone who reads this must have thought to themselves, "I'd like to do something to help Afghanistan succeed, but I can't go and fight."
Well, here's your chance. When I was a junior high school student, my mother got us into Laubach Literacy, whose motto is "each one, teach one." This is kind of like that. I know that I didn't win the campaign in Afghanistan all by my lonesome. It's still going on, and I could only do a little. Someone who is reading this can make just a little bit of difference by bringing an intelligent young English-speaking Afghan into their home and making their own bond with Afghanistan without having to subject themselves to the predations of the Taliban.
"What an opportunity! How do I sign up?" you ask.
Send me an email at afghanoldblue[at]gmail.com and I will facilitate contact with the coordinator. It's actions that we take, not words or happy thoughts, that make a difference in this world. Consider taking an action. Personally, I know that it's little actions on a distributed level that make success in Afghanistan possible. You can be a significant contributor by sharing your hospitality with one student. That's pretty cool.