Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Look Back, To See the Road Ahead

Well built by Maj Gant's team
Maj Gant and village girls
Afghan boys sorting school supplies*

A careful look back at the week, brings insight to the trail ahead in Afghanistan. The editor, Dave Dilegge and publisher, Bill Nagle of Small Wars Journal along with Steven Pressfield of "It's The Tribes, Stupid!" deserve a lot of credit for pushing the tribal approach to strategy in Afghanistan. This concept really seemed to have taken flight when Pressfield took the field and began a series of posts on a tribal strategy, by Major Jim Gant, supported by a series of interviews with Afghan tribal leader,Chief Zazai.

This week, the SMJ, posted an update on the Tribal Engagement Workshop held in late March 2010 where they provide a list of comments and  posts by some of the forward thinkers on this subject.

All are worth the time to read to get the lay of the land and insight into the world behind the smoke and retoric of dueling heads of state.

On a more personal note, these next reports by Michael Yon, offers a clearer picture of what is really happening, and serve to illustrate the concepts discussed above, being put to use by the boots on the ground.

Michael introduces this first dispatch like this.
Back in December, C-Co 1-17th Infantry battalion had been in about the worst place in Afghanistan. There is stiff competition for the position of actual worst place, and I am sure there are many contenders that remain unknown, but the Arghandab was one of them. The battalion had lost more than twenty soldiers, and C-co alone had lost 12 with more wounded. In December 2009, C-Co was moved north into Shah Wali Kot and has been running missions here for more than three months. I’ve only been at Shaw Wali Kot for a week.
Charlie Company headed on a mission to visit villages that had seen no formal western guests for at least the past five years, according Company Commander Max Hanlin. The soldiers drove to an area maybe two kilometers from the first village, parked, and walked in. The surrounding desert was so dry that only the hardy and small plants survived—often with thorns, and probably foul-tasting (and poisonous). How else can a plant expect to survive when the favorite Afghan meat is mutton, and foraging isn’t easy for the lambs? There was the occasional brown lizard or grasshopper, but on the whole it’s simply rocky desert. The place is barren but not entirely lifeless.

"Veterans watch the kids. If the kids don’t like you, or are afraid: bad. The adults can lie all day and might get away with it, while kids are a collective polygraph. If the kids disappear suddenly, it’s a good idea to prepare to fight, and it’s always great to see a bunch of young ones return a smile. Children also see the enemy just like everyone else does, though the children can be more likely to say something." Michael Yon

Read more:
Village Boys

Michael Yon has been perhaps the most intrepid, American war corespondent since Ernie Pyle. Spending more time in the field and relating the kinds of stories that made Ernie a household name in World War II.

In this post, Michael invites MAJ JF Sucher, MD to write this dispatch where the major uses the metaphor of a whisper to convey the tidal wave of support it produced.

A singular sentence in reply to a common, simple question. A whisper from Afghanistan has returned a loud echo from Laconia, New Hampshire, a small town of 12,000 (40,000 in the summer) nestled amongst the glacial lakes in the center of the state.
Dr. Sam Aldridge has practiced peripheral vascular surgery in Laconia, NH for the past 15 years based solely on a gentlemen’s handshake with Tom Clairmont, CEO of Lakes Region General Hospital, who has been a stalwart supporter of Aldridge’s military commitment.
On January 15th, 2010 LTC Aldridge left for his third active duty deployment since joining the Army Reserves Medical Corps. Before leaving, Danielle Mostoller, the hospital’s PR representative, had LTC Aldridge promise to write regular updates that would be placed in the hospital’s email newsletter, which reaches 1600 people.

LTC Sam Aldridge

Soon after Aldridge’s “updates” hit the hospital newsletter, people began to respond. Danielle asked if there was anything they could send him. Maybe some care packages of snacks or books and such? LTC Aldridge, knowing that there were so many people around him that really did need something, responded with a simple request of socks for the Afghan soldiers and school supplies for the orphaned children of a nearby local village. A singular sentence. A simple whisper.

LTC Sam Aldridge (left) and CPT Chad Zielinski (right) stand outside the 909th FST with a new arrival of boxes* Photos provided courtesy of CPT Chad Zielinski, USAF Chaplain.

The true measure of the success of this program is in the faces of those who are gifted.

Village boy with new jeans
* Photos provided courtesy of CPT Chad Zielinski, USAF Chaplain.

Take the time to view the photos and the essay. Then pause and reflect on LTC Aldridge's two quotes.
“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” – Shakespeare – Merchant of Venice Act 5, scene 1
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Sir Winston Churchill

View the post:
A Whisper

For those who do not follow Michael Yon's blog, he is totally self-supporting in his reporting efforts.
Support Michael Yon

No comments: