My sobering experience as an armed security guard in Afghanistan
Looking back on my experience in Afghanistan, I understand it was a damn unique one. It’s an amazing place, with a lot of history nestled in its landscape. And even though conflict still rages within, it maintains an element of mysticism.
One day, when the war is over, I hope tourists from all backgrounds and nations flock to the beautiful mountains and streams, while taking in every attraction the country has to offer.
Until that day arrives, hopefully it all will remain preserved in time.
My personal journey to it began in late 2014, after applying for a United States passport. Average Americans usually obtain theirs so they can go on luxurious vacations; I was the contrary. My intended purpose for getting it was to become a U.S. defense contractor in a war-torn country. Although I had served eight years total in the U.S. Army between the Florida Army National Guard, Individual Ready Reserve, and the Army Reserves, I had only deployed once overseas, and that was to Iraq.
When I first discovered contracting opportunities in Afghanistan, I seized the opportunity to get selected for one. Not only did I see it as a chance to visit an exotic land, I saw it as a chance to establish a better life for my wife and I. Plus, I could capitalize on my years of military training.
Once I received my passport, I didn't waste any time. After creating profiles on websites of various defense contractors, sometime around Thanksgiving, it only took a short time to get a reply — the beginning of December.
Not two months after that, I was in Afghanistan, headed to my assignment.
The journey entailed a long plane ride and a few days stay at a U.S. Army establishment in Kuwait. Then everyone ventured off to Afghanistan. Once I got to my assignment location in the southern area, I went through a week of refresher modules. The modules consisted of training I had received as an Infantryman in the Army National Guard. After the training was complete, I was put on my assigned shift. During the length of my assignment, I performed the duties of an Armed Security Guard.
While performing duties, I was able to interact with the local Afghans. As time progressed, I became privy to their local and religious customs. For example, during their three-day Eid feast — an event that signals the end to the Holy Month of Ramadan — they shared a platter of lamb and rice with my security team. The display of generosity was a sobering experience. Because on too many occasions, I witnessed the people of Afghanistan belittled because of the actions of others from that region.
The longer I was deployed, and the more I interacted with the locals, I began to realize those nefarious individuals seen on TV didn’t represent the populace. They are far removed from the peaceful and simple way of life that a majority of Afghans attempt to live. They're just like you and I, or anyone else for that matter. They just want to live life despite the chaos around them.
The chaos was ever present, too. Innocent lives were often disrupted or cut short while doing something as simple as driving to a wedding celebration. This barbarism occurred on a daily basis, and is still going on to this day.
One thing is for certain, no matter how hard the times are, no matter what feat they are faced with, Afghans are some of the most resilient and reverent people I have ever had the honor of meeting. I hope one day, their country will receive the peace it deserves. However, it appears their period of peace will arrive later rather than sooner.
Just two years ago, when I made my initial journey to Afghanistan, there were indications the United States' involvement in the drawn out war was coming to a close. All over the war-torn country, the U.S. was closing bases, contractors were turning their positions over to the military — this was all part of the exit process.
Things were looking up for all involved. The Afghans would have their country back, and the U.S. troops could finally recover from a lengthy war. Though since, the United States has had a regime change. A new executive administration has taken over in Washington D.C., and their agenda is much different than the last.
Over the last month, the world was shown just that. The new president approved sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, adding to the June 2017 Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) report of 11,965 U.S. service members currently there. Thus making an end to this almost 16-year-old war less likely.
I’ll tell everyone, more troops isn’t the answer; and it is far from what the average Afghan wants to see.
They of all people would like to move past the conflict that has consumed their country for close to two decades. To help make the future withdrawal of coalition troops possible, the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) has been taking the lead in a lot of the offensive operations. The ANA is making gradual progress in its fight against the Taliban regime. This is a task many Afghan soldiers don’t take lightly.
A motto of theirs is: "God, Duty, Country." Nearly all of the Afghan soldiers have this embroidered in Pashto (the primary language in Afghanistan) on their uniform patches.
The people there are extremely passionate about their country. They are damned certain to see an end to one thing constantly threatening their home and way of life: the Taliban.
From the time I spent with the people of Afghanistan, I know they will do everything they can to restore peace and freedom. They will do this, not for themselves, but for "God, Duty, and Country."