Monday, October 23, 2006

Angry, Hungry Privates of the ANA

On returning from this week's routine meeting of the senior leadership of the Ministry of Defense, our convoy reentered the Kabul Military training Center in the afternoon. As this was the last week of Ramazan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and one dedicated to fasting, prayer and charity, most training with the Afghans is concluded by one o' clock in the afternoon, enabling time for devotion and for rest. Devout Muslims are discouraged from excessive physical activity and from allowing anything to pass their lips, whether food or water from Sun rise until sunset.

We entered the compound through a side gate and were met with the streets packed full of almost a thousand Afghan privates under the watchful eyes of their drill sergeants. As I was in the lead vehicle, I told my driver that I was going to exit the vehicle to both ground guide our vehicle forward and to clear the area so that we could pass.

Just as I exited the vehicle, I saw the butt end of an AK-47 above the heads of several soldiers come crashing down. Great timing. I exit the vehicle right as a minor riot began amongst the private soldiers. I jumped into the scene to help get to the bottom of it and to see who was leading the charge. I waded my way through the mass of soldiers gathering around as several soldiers were assailing one private soldier on the ground, hitting him with helmets and the butts of their weapons. I separated several of the men from the young soldier that was on the ground and was glad to see my interpretter right behind me. "You! Stop! Now!" "You! Sit! Now!" Just when I thought that my luck might run out and as the realization that I was solo in a sea of hungry, frustrated, poor, angry, fighting young Afghan men, I looked over my shoulder and my commander, Col. Jim Lyman was right next to me, sorting through the same mess and getting answers in a more calm but confident manner. As I separated the men from the soldier in the mud, Col. Lyman methodically and calmly asked through his interpretter, "What happened here? Who is responsible?" We both emphasized the same point over and over. We would touch the shoulder boards of the NCOs (Sergeants) that were all around us, watching and doing nothing..."You are an NCO. A Sergeant. You are a leader of soldiers. NCOs do not tolerate this type of behavior. You are the leader! You are responsible for the discipline of these soldiers. They do not know better but you do, so lead them!"

They got the point and started to take the lead, forming up the soldiers and getting them back in line. Col. Lyman found out that one of the soldiers had taken a drink of water during the day while out on the range. Never minding that he was sick, that despite the rigors of Ramazan, there are allowances for taking water and rest if you are sick while fasting during Ramazan, several soldiers that had seen him had decided to wait until they had returned to the relative calm of the barracks to take out their vengeance on the young soldier that had broken with the credo of Ramazan. He was pretty bruised up and had a few small gashes on his nose and cheek. Nothing that wouldn't heal given time and some rest. But that, of course, is a luxury that any private soldier in basic training is hardly afforded.

I proceeded to lead our vehicle convoy through the reluctantly orderly crowd. We got back into Camp Alamo and Col. Lyman confided that he had his hand on the grip of his pistol the entire time. I was glad for his back-up and leadership. It was a hairy experience, just outside our doors, or, as the colonel puts it every morning "Just another day in the A."

-out here.


Blogger Kat said...


OUr prayers are with you.

7:42 PM  
Blogger andrew said...

I very much hope that your rugby football prowess are very much better than your military history!

You say "Camp Souter, named for the lone surivor of a famed battle in the British-Afghan war. He wrapped himself in the Union Jack and covered it in his uniform lest the colors be stolen and crept back across the Khyber Pass back to the safety of Pakistan a century ago."

Yes, Camp Souter is indeed named after Capt. T.A. Souter, of the 44th Regt. of Foot, The Essex Regiment. He took part in the disastrous Retreat From Kabul, at the end of the First Afghan War (1841/42). Sixteen thousand set out from Kabul for India, via Jellalabad, under the impression that they had been granted safe conduct by the Afghans. Not all the number were soldiery, in fact some ten thousand were camp servants, wives / mistresses and general hangers on.

Within a few miles of the start of the march they came under continuing attack, the weather was atrocious and the cold probably accounted for as many deaths as the fighting. This continued for the many miles through the passes, ambushes being met with at every turn.

Eventually there were but about twenty troops left. At Gundermuk, only twenty or so miles short of Jellalabad, they made their last stand on a small hillock. Souter, my grandfather, wrapped the Regimental Colours around his torso, to prevent their capture.

All of the remaining men were wounded, and eventually they ran out of ammunition. All except Souter and three privates were killed. The fact that he was allowed is put down to the Afghans being impressed by the richness of his undergarments, and forming the belief that he was worth the trouble of ransoming.

Yours Aye Andrew Sellon

9:49 AM  
Blogger randy p said...

major strong we the parent family thank you and hope that you make a safe return home. happy thanksgiving and god bless. my son is the kid at habits you gave your hat toand goes to school with your son. thanks again randy p( p.s. tristian say to say hello

4:16 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home