In no way is war glamorous. Most of us can’t even imagine the guts it takes to fire live bullets at another human being. Luckily for us civilians, these soldiers turned Reddit users give us a glimpse into the war in Afghanistan and present misconceptions we may have had all along. Find more stories here.
1. Why Are We Here, Again? That they had any idea why we were there. We’d ask them if they knew what 9/11 was, and they had no idea. We’d show them pictures of the WTC on fire after the planes hit, and ask them what it was…their response was usually that it was a picture of a building the US bombed in Kabul (their capitol).
Kind of mind blowing that they’re being occupied by a foreign military force and have no idea why.
2. Unexpected Beauty I expected everything to be desert and mountains, but I spent as much time in orchards as I did anywhere else while I was there.
3. Who Exactly Is The Enemy? Oh, also about the fighting we did. I had in my mind that it would be these organized ambushes, against a somewhat organized force. It may have been like that for the push (Marjah), but once the initial defense was scattered, the fighting turned into some farmer getting paid a year’s salary to go fire an AK47 at our patrol as we walked by. I mean, no wonder there was so much PTSD going around…it doesn’t feel okay when you killed some farmer for trying to feed his kids, or save his family from torture that next night. It feels like shit actually.
4. Seriously, Who? That we would be fighting the Taliban. The majority of people we managed to detain had been coerced into shooting at us by the “Mujahideen” (which is made up of all sorts of people) who had kidnapped or threatened their family.
The most glaring example of this was when our FOB (Forward Operating Base) was attacked by a massive VBIED (truck bomb) that blew a hole in our wall. Suicide bombers ran into the FOB through the hole and blew themselves up in our bunkers. Every single one of them had their hands tied and remote detonation receivers (so they couldn’t back out).
5. Where Are They? Soldiers tend to train for fighting at sub-500 metres. At least I always had. Not being able to see the enemy wasn’t completely out of the norm for training, but they were usually within the effective range of our small arms.
Come to Afghanistan and we were getting fired at by invisible enemies on the side of mountains a kilometre + away. We hardly knew we were getting engaged, let alone went into contact drills.
6. Sharing Is Caring, Even In Afghanistan Their concept of food. In their culture if anyone had food they were to share it with everyone around them. This is even if you only have enough for one person to have a snack. It was almost as if they didn’t believe food could be owned by a person. Some of the Afghans I worked with would be offended if I ate anything and didn’t offer them some.
7. When War Hits Home I was mortuary affairs in 2008 during my first deployment to Afghanistan and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I never had to fight, but I was constantly dealing with the remains of 18-22 year old soldiers that had been blown into pieces or burned alive due to HMEs and IEDs. Seeing your fellow soldiers and countrymen brutally killed in such a way that is easy to see as cowardly turned me into a budding racist pretty quickly. I hated the Islamic religion and the people in Afghanistan and I had an opinion similar to the whole “just nuke em all” mentality. But one day we were called to the hospital on base to remove a dead civilian local national (which we often did if they died in our hospital or on base) and it turned out to be a 3 year old little girl that was shot with AK-47 fire at a fairly close range. Her father followed us to the morgue as we had to get his permission to take her into our care because we were males and all that, and he didn’t seem particularly bothered by his daughters violent murder imo. It wasn’t until we placed her into a hand-made casket (a sgt and I stayed up all night making a wood casket out of cheap particle board we found, despite neither of us having any clue what we were doing) and draped the Afghanistan flag onto it that his emotions came out. When we began to load the casket into the back of a truck to transport her off base, he lost it and collapsed onto the casket containing his little girl. We were holding her at the time so we nearly lost it, but were able to set her down as he gripped the flag and the casket and wailed louder than any wailing I would ever seen. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a grown man truly cry as if he’d just lost everything, but it’s surprising how much it affects you. I realized in that moment how wrong I was about everything. Felt like a real moron.
8. Don’t Tread On Them Either I’ve been to eleven other countries during my five years in the Marines. Went there expecting the people to be chanting for our death and plotting nefarious acts of villainy all the time. Which, certainly, there are a few out there.
For the most part though, people the world over are the same with minor outliers. Afghanis are not an exception here. They mostly just want to be left alone, tend their land and their family. They’re almost exactly the same as anyone who grew up in the deep south, just a different flavor of religion.
Most interesting to me is how their history is passed down each generation. It’s all word of mouth, for generation after generation, and largely focused on the wars they’ve fought. The end result is you’ll have Elders in the mountains who’ll swear that their great-great grandfather fought against Alexander the Great.
9. Not a Good Pickup Line Bro I deployed to Afghanistan in 2007. As a female with knowledge of the culture over there, I was still shocked at the level of female inequality and general disrespect for females by Afghan men. Here are just a few examples:
I was interviewing local truck drivers to get to the bottom of missing fuel. One of the drivers offered to “buy” me from my interpreter (because I’m obviously the terp’s property…) for $100 USD because “there’s no good pussy in Kabul.”
I went on a humanitarian mission that would provide routine medical care and hygiene basics to locals in a rural district. I was there to help search any females that showed up. No females showed up because apparently their husbands don’t let them come out. Only the men and the male children were there.
10. Advanced Warfare I’d have to say this is not a perception but rather a culture shock. I was never part of any interrogations but I was told that some of the Taliban we had been fighting believed we had force fields that were causing their weapons, most notably RPGs, to not hit us.
It had nothing to do with skill of the user or the weapons capabilities. They actually believed our technology was that superior.
11. The Biggest Misconception of All We want to win the war.