Local Nationals

Every week we held a “Community Clinic” at Camp Parsa, the ANA post adjacent to Camp Clark. Local residents could bring sick and injured children to the camp to receive medical care from our doctors and medics. The picture above is of children I remember as clinic regulars, which points to a problem. The program meant well, and did some good, I’m sure, but the same families brought the same children every time.  The ANA were not going to let anyone on base who had not been thoroughly vetted and proven trustworthy, so new faces were de facto suspect.  But it was also easy to believe that the children were being used as proxies by their parents to collect the blankets, backpacks, and shoes we handed out in the name of “humanitarian assistance,” which then could be resold or redistributed to who-knows-who by the parents for profit or prestige. The kids were cute, though, and it gave our personnel who rarely got off the FOB a chance to interact in a positive way with the Afghan people.

Just outside the camp was a range where we test-fired our weapons and practiced marksmanship. It was a great asset, and units used to come from all over Khowst to use it. At night we were comforted by the sound of American attack helicopters test-firing their rockets and machine guns overhead. Their presence meant that we were probably not going to get hit by insurgent fire that night. The range was also an economic boon for the residents who lived nearby.  The  picture below shows Afghan boys swarming over the range to collect the brass cartridges from our expended rounds.  Like the humanitarian assistance, the spent brass could be sold for good money on the local economy.

I found the picture of the children at the Community Clinic at an online site featuring entries in a photo contest sponsored by the US military.  It was taken by an Andrew Smith, whom I do not know.  The picture taken at the range was given to me by an officer with whom I served at Camp Clark.

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3 Responses to “Local Nationals”

  1. Renee Beaton Says:

    This truely touched my heart. The children’s faces say it all. Thanks for sharing. God Bless you for your service.

    Renee

  2. petermolin Says:

    Those kids are something. And as young as they are, they used to routinely carry their baby brothers and sisters on their hips when they walked from the village to the camp. Tough!

  3. Chris Brown Says:

    Hey Pete,

    Your first paragraph sounds like the perils of pathos in wartime. It must be unimaginably difficult to discern when to be compassionate and when to suspect guerilla machinations–an awkward turn of phrase, there!

    Best,
    Chris

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