Afghan Automobile Association and Playing Soccer

So, what is Afghanistan like in December? The nights are frigid and the days are pretty brisk. I had to break out my fleece jacket and have been wearing those in the mornings and nights.

Not much has really been going on that I can freely talk about on this blog. I assure you that things have been hopping out here and I have been wrapped around the axle dealing with them but I didn’t want to bore you all with a post that can be summarized as “I went on a mission, answered my e-mails, followed up on e-mails that were sent yesterday, fielded a couple of phone calls, do the write up of the mission, blah blah blah”.

The missions I go on are pretty much the same except for the locations. The missions that we run are focused on Civil Affairs (CA), Psychological Operations (PSYOP), or both. On a CA mission we look at a project, evaluate a location for a new project, or conduct a medical/veterinary mission. The PSYOPers on their missions do that PSYOPer thing. An interesting thing happened on a combined veterinary and medical mission a few days ago.

We rolled out like usual and were almost at our destination when one of the truck commanders (TC) called out an emergency stop. We all bailed out and set up security and waited on what’s the word. It turned out that one of our hummers lost steering. Upon closer inspection we found that one of the driveshafts had come loose. Seeing as how we still had a mission to perform, we decided to set up the medical and veterinary mission right there and try to fix the hummer.

While the CA and medical folks were setting up, the TC of the broken hummer grabbed the tools and crawled underneath. It was pretty comical to see a hummer with its hood up, a pair of legs sticking out from underneath, and the rest of us standing there in full battle rattle voicing our opinions on how to fix it or whether we will have to tow it back. At that point, an Afghan was tooling by in his truck and parked off the side of the road. He got out, grabbed his tools, and came right on over and offered to help.

As it was, he didn’t have the tools (or bolts we needed) to help and he offered his apologies. We thanked him anyway and away he went. Another truck came by, it stopped, and out jumped four Afghans, they grabbed their tools and offered their assistance. They had a jack that we actually used and they helped with wrestling some of the drive train components. When the hummer was fixed we offered them money and the senior man refused. We did manage to give each of them radios (AM/FM/Shortwave and powered by a hand crank, batteries, or solar) and we gave the younger men some Afghani (Afghan money) as a token of our appreciation.

Let me paint a picture here. One downed hummer with some fierce weaponry on top of it, other operational hummers with fierce weaponry on them, multiple Coalition soldiers in full battle rattle, we haven’t really started treating any animals or people yet so it wasn’t obvious that we were running a humanitarian assistance mission, the province I am in is where the Taliban was born, and these Afghan men STILL OFFERED THEIR ASSISTANCE!!

The code of conduct that the Pashtun peoples abide by is called Pashtunwali. The code is strictly adhered to but on occasion the basic tenets are set aside for political expediency. Of the tenets of the code, one is called melmastya (hospitality and protection to every guest) and another is nunawati (the right of a fugitive to seek refuge and acceptance of his bona fide offer of peace). We weren’t asking for refuge and we definitely weren’t guests in their house. If anyone was on the mountains that surrounded us they could easily see us, and anyone around us, with a scope. Yet these men still helped. Pretty gutsy in my opinion.

One of our soldiers is a soccer fiend and facilitated the donation of uniforms to four local teams. One of those teams asked if we would play them. Because this is the army, we had to write up a mission plan and all that other stuff. We played a soccer game against the city team yesterday. I didn’t play because I was acting as the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) which meant I was taking pictures. Thankfully, my new camera came in and I was able to take some great action shots.

About one hundred and fifty people watched, including the provincial governor and some other officials. These guys were tough and good. It was a competitive game but friendly. At the end of the game all the players were all smiles. The local team wants to play us again. I firmly believe that once the people ask you to play with them, you gotta be doing something right.

CPT NightHawk


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