It's been so long I don’t know what number I'm on. The last update I sent was on R&R. It's been a tumultuous time since my return to Afghanistan 6 weeks ago. Although I've many more topics of discussion for you all to read, my time in Afghanistan is quickly coming to an end. I volunteered to extend my tour here in order to help the incoming team. The extension would've been short and taken my to just two weeks past my original orders of 400 days of active duty. No biggie I thought.
But, my extension was denied, even though our replacements arrived criminally short of people, I can't stay. Trust me, I've got lots to say about that and other things. Let me give you a few more pieces of Afghanistan seen thru my eyes. Enjoy them. See you soon!
A Brigade level temper tantrum
Something very interesting happened the other day. But first, let me introduce the characters involved. The Brigade Commander (Bde Cdr) is the most powerful local commander of US forces in my three province region. He provides guidance on what his priorities are to the lower Battle Space Owners throughout the provinces (I think he has 5-6 subordinate BSOs). His word is law.
Unfortunately, we work on the same base as the Bde Cdr – which means we have the “flag pole” here, meaning this FOB is very uptight. There is no fudging of the rules/regulations because someone of higher rank will freak out on you and cause unnecessary attention and chaos to an otherwise mundane existence. See my BARF update for context.
This is war, so rules/regulations MUST be followed. I’m all for that, depending on the rule. We have some very brainless rules – even by retard standards, but the Bde Cdr and his minions are Active Duty Soldiers from 3rd Bde, 101st Division – known Army wide for being backassward. Don’t get me wrong, there are some incredibly talented Soldiers in 3/101 (as they’re called) but some Soldiers in positions of leadership are career & ego driven more than mission driven. Right or wrong, I’ve come to understand those bad leaders as “Ego – Career first, Mission second.” It’s like they picked leaders from a pool of candidates who had interbred with family members for generations and are a few genes short on the DNA strand. They mean well and can talk a good game, but they’re just not all there and it reflects in their behavior and decisions.
Case in point – we and everyone else here are critically short of Soldiers to do our mission. Oh, there are plenty of ground pounders (infantry types), but If you haven’t guessed by now, I work in the intelligence field. There are never enough of us in any deployment to really do our job. Recently one of the intel guys was kicked off the base because he wasn’t following the rules. Was he walking around with his weapon at the ready, round chambered, ready to shoot? No. Was he speeding on base or driving around recklessly? No – he has no access to a vehicle. Was he harassing female Soldiers or local Afghan interpreters? No. His egregious sin? He didn’t want to tuck in his t-shirt while working out at the gym.
Yeah, it all boils down to a t-shirt. The Soldier has a special skill which requires hundreds of man hours to learn during many weeks of training. All units clamor for Soldiers with his skill set – but he’s gone, kinda. Here’s the deal. Soldier was working out at the gym at 11pm one night. Whatever he was doing caused his t-shirt to come untucked. Understand – a military PT uniform is still a uniform. I’ve heard guys get yelled at and kicked off the basketball court because their t-shirt became untucked from their shorts while playing ball. Are you shocked? It’s almost comical how small-minded people with a little bit of power will over react to perceived minor infractions. Anyway, back to our story.
Soldier was working out, dare I say rebelling, with his t-shirt untucked. The Bde Cdr, also in uniform, t-shirt securely constrained by the elastic of his shorts, approaches the Soldier and tells him to tuck in his t-shirt. Soldier explains that it’s easier to do the exercise w/o the shirt tucked in, that the shirt becomes untucked. I’m sure there was more to the conversation than what I heard 2nd hand, but the end result was the Bde Cdr had a hissy fit, stormed out of the gym with Soldier in tow, marched the Soldier to some official office (his, the MP station, etc?), called and woke up the Soldier’s Commander and ordered the Soldier to not only leave the base immediately, but kicked the Soldier out of the entire three province area. Oh, it gets better.
Prior to the t-shirt incident, we experienced 3 days of rain. Our base has a gravel runway which is closed whenever it rains. So, the criminal Soldier packs up his stuff, and sits at the passenger terminal in the dead of night, waiting for a flight. Naturally he’s still there in the morning because everything was cancelled and is cancelled for the foreseeable future due to the non-stop rain. (Today is day 5 of non-ending rain). Well, the fact that there are no flights out is not an excuse to the Bde Cdr and his boot licking subordinates. Mighty Mouse is incensed the criminal Soldier – and his vital intelligence skills which are in desperate need in our area of operations – is still here. MM sends some lackey to yell at the Soldier and the Soldier’s commander.
I don’t know what the outcome of the t-shirt incident was and I don’t know where the Soldier is now, but I ask you: is this the type of person you want responsible for 1,000’s of Soldiers in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan? I certainly wouldn’t trust him with watching my dog over a weekend, let alone with the precious lives of our fine men and women in uniform – whether their shirts were tucked in or not.