Last night we enjoyed ourselves at the Cigar Lounge with Karaoke night. The Cigar Lounge is the name for a popular outdoor pavilion with make-shift picnic tables and is used as a multi-function platform for hosting salsa lessons, jazz music and other morale boosters. Everyone was having a great time and doing their best to belt out their favorite songs using a laptop computer and small sound system to accommodate the “Next GI Joe Idol”. Despite not having any stars in the group, it was a fun time evidenced by the hand clapping and cheering for the amateur crooners. The night ended and everyone relocated to their quarters for a restful night of sleep.
I too went to my room and my lumpy mattress actually lulled me into a deep sleep. During the early hours, the enemy decided to test out their new version of an alarm clock by launching a couple of rockets towards our camp. Unlike the usual annoying chirp that I am accustomed to, this alarm clock came with a window jarring thump. Fortunately, nobody was injured. For OPSEC reasons this is all I am going to disclose. Unfortunately, this is too common throughout Afghanistan at the camps, outposts, and fire bases. The Taliban are cowards and fuse timers to their rockets so they are long gone by the time we track their launching point. Apparently they are not ready to meet the virgins they were promised if they die in battle and are afraid to fight us head on. Instead they resort to nuisance rocket and mortar attacks to reiterate their disapproval of the progression of the Afghanistan government, ANA and coalition forces.
The picture of the HMMVW is the damage as the result of being hit with 2 RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenade) while out on an ETT mission a few days ago (not my team). Nobody was injured and the vehicle safely returned to camp. So if you want to see a prime example of your tax dollars being well spent, this is it. Note: There are numerous ETT teams throughout Afghanistan, this one just happened to be one of our camp ETT teams.
Unable to go back to sleep many of us ate an early breakfast and prepared for today’s agenda. Our ANA counterparts were hosting a friendly sports competition between the ANA soldiers and NCOs. The first event was a 4000 meter run around the track.
We used a translator to help us decipher the sequence of events and what was taking place. After the run, the soldiers competed in push-ups and sit-ups. Their Sergeant Majors along with some of the officer leadership attended and cheered on their favorite Kandak member. Tomorrow they will compete in soldiering skills to include map reading and questions about the judiciary system. Or at least this is the translation from our interpreter Hanif.
We rely heavily on our translators to communicate effectively with our ANA counterparts. Sometimes the message can get twisted and a different meaning is conveyed. For a better understanding of these conversations, gather a group of people together, which we will label A, B, and C. You speak in your native tongue to A and then B translates to A. A responds in his language and then B translates back to you. Meanwhile, C interjects and A responds back to C. Patiently you wait for B to translate what A and C just said, so you can respond back to them. This is a typical conversation for an ETT mentor. But all is not lost, as some of the ANA officers and Sgt Majors are taking English classes and are capable of carrying on a basic conversation. You can sense the pride in their eyes when they realize you understood what they just said. I need to break out my Dari book and my flash cards so I can reciprocate the gesture.
While at the sporting event, I took an opportunity to take pictures of the future soccer field.
Notice the electric mower they are using and the hand sickle to cut the grass. I jokingly inquired why they don’t bring in a herd of goats or sheep to mulch the tall grass. They responded with deep laughter that they don’t want to step in the manure while playing soccer. I wonder how you say that in Dari, because it got a good laugh. I suppose they have a good point, so my first mentoring suggestion will be disregarded. Note to self: be sure to think through idea before suggesting it….lol.