This is what happens when you go downrange as an individual; you are forced to meet new people. You can’t predict what these brand spanking new relationships will look like a year from now. It forces one to live in the moment and to really try to do your best.
And hope that it’s good enough.
It’s a new test, a new challenge. It’s also a bit unnerving. It’s strange how you can spend years and years proving over and over that you can meet new people, be put into a team with them, and thrive. There are those, like SFC (soon to be 1SG) O, Jacques Pulvier, LTC Stone Cold and some others from my last tour that I will keep up with for the rest of my natural life. There are others that I don’t care if I ever see again. That’s the way of it. It’s not the ones that I don’t care to see again that matter. It’s the ones that I have bonded with so strongly that we will keep in touch over the course of years. Some with regularity, some with irregularity… that doesn’t matter, either. It matters that you do reconnect.
The chances are good that I will have some of that here, too. It doesn’t always happen. Usually that is a bonding that is driven by stress and shared danger. There is no telling if there will be that level of bonding gel applied to these newly developing relationships. Who knows?
That’s the point; nobody does. It is just time to let go, live in the present, and let these things go which way they may. Arriving alone on a new team has a familiar feel to it. One difference is that the team existed before I got here. I am the FNG. They are a good bunch, though, and I feel absolutely welcome.
Many things here are familiar, if a little more worn. The ghosts of the last deployment hover over old landmarks and haunt new developments. There are changes in Kabul, and in the camps my friends and I knew then. The new mosque that was under construction is finished and beautiful. The lot in front of the building with the big body builder sign on it is empty of the trash pile that choked it. Phoenix is a crowded ghetto. There is new construction here and there in the city. A gleaming new office building is nearly complete. It would fit right into any city in America… at least by looks if not by amenities. There has been some visible progress here.
Out in the provinces may be a completely different story. Kabul is to Afghanistan as New York City is to America; a whole different reality, detached and different and self-absorbed. Unrepresentative of the reality of the rest of the country, like New York it is convinced that it somehow represents the country symbolically. Kabul does not reflect the reality of Khost or Helmand any more than New York City reflects the reality of Cincinnati or Iowa. It’s good to see some progress in this age-old city, but it does not reflect the state of the nation. Some of the news from the provinces is deeply disconcerting. The increase in manning levels and the mandated change in behaviors will take time to manifest themselves.
Tactical patience is required.
There is one thing that I may share with rest of the world. For those of you who know him, Rambo is still at the front gate of Phoenix. To him, I am just another American Soldier passing through that portal; but to me, he is an icon and a symbol of how dedicated an Afghan can be. Seeing him there forced a smile from me. So, if any of you wondered, Rambo is present and accounted for.
The average American doesn’t know about Rambo. If anyone has a Rambo story or two, please share it either in comments or email it to me. The guy is truly incredible.