A Little Bit of Afghan Goofiness

Poet Brian Turner talks of a “little circle of stupidity” that lovingly enveloped his squad in Iraq.  By that he meant that their lives while deployed were saturated with comic moments and a general spirit of laughter.  In-between and alongside the scary moments and the overall seriousness, humor reigned and jokes prevailed.  Everything possible was played for laughs and teasing and ridicule were the rhetorical modes of choice.   The sentiment suggests that Turner’s squad just plain enjoyed soldiering in the company of like-minded colleagues.  It also speaks to the delta between the precision and competence with which his units’ missions were planned and the mishaps that characterized their execution.  Human, all too human.   Soldiers use humor to voice dissent and to keep standards high, while simultaneously cutting each other slack.  Laughter knits them together and prepares them for what’s next.

Much the same was true in Afghanistan.  You just never knew what was going to happen—every trip out the gate was an adventure, and much of it was comic.  The pictures here illustrate the point.  The ANA had driven one of their Ford Ranger trucks to the top of one of the mountains surrounding Camp Clark to resupply an OP.  Forgetting to set the emergency brake when getting out of the vehicle, they then watched the truck roll off the top of the hill and 500 feet down the mountain before crashing to a stop.

A day or so later we drove out and then hiked up to the vehicle.  There it stood, still functional and only slightly banged up.   Driving it off the mountain was impossible, though; it was going to take a helicopter to get it down.   What a mess, unnecessary and a huge distraction.

But while on the side of the mountain, we yukked it up.  Cracking jokes and posing for hammy pictures, we proposed goofy, impossible ways we might recover the vehicle.  Allah?  Goats?  The Taliban?  We might have castigated the Afghans for their carelessness, and we wouldn’t have been wrong.  But what would have been the point?   They knew they had screwed up.  And besides, it wasn’t like we were perfect.  We slid our big trucks off the roads, suffered breakdowns, and got lost at inopportune times, too.  We weren’t the 75th Rangers, we just weren’t, and I’m sure even the best units had their moments, too.

Tomorrow we would again fight the dooshmen. Today we had to get the truck off the side of the damn hill.  No use making anyone miserable while we were at it.

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