As some here on the Vine know I've spent the past year on deployment in Afghanistan. This deployment was my first time to really leave the US and see the world outside. It was quite a strange and different experience for me and I've seen alotta things. I also while on deployment discovered Newsvine and got involved with it and as my first article I feel it best to give my impressions of my 'home' for the last year.
I've seen very few articles on Afghanistan from a soldier's view point and I thought it was something that should be written. Beginning the deployment and just getting over here was a head first dive into something I knew nothing about. Going from the US where you can't go five feet without WiFi and a Starbucks to a country where cell towers can be rare. Those first few weeks were a mass of confusion and endless information. Once we got settled in our little niche was the first time I really started to be able to notice everything. From the very beginning we worked quite closely with the Afghan forces and the local people and government.
It was very strange encountering a fully blown tribal culture like Afghanistan's. There is far more trust put in the individual tribes than in the government as a whole. This caused a strange kind of relationship with the army and police, it's as if in the US we had local militias which held their state in higher regards than the national government. This is good and bad in many situations. On the good side the afghan forces typically have alot of knowledge of the area and can get along quite well with the local people. This also can result in more loyalties with the people of a particular area than their employers the government. This can mean something as small as abit of extra security for a place they particularly like or as big as ignoring corruption in the area.
The people as a whole are good people. Most of them have a code of ethics that makes American's look like selfish pricks much of the time. The people are all about helping each other and even a random stranger. When you go into their house they will feed you even if it is their last scrap of food. If you are a guest in their home they will risk their life to protect you from anyone even their tribe or family. The feeling you get from these people is polar opposite what many branches of media portray them as. One note I will make is I never had much interaction with any woman while here because of their beliefs about woman. I don't condone their views in that regard but it is how it is. They are a very hard working people from what I have seen rising early to work in their feeds or with their livestock.
The subject of Religion is something that is horribly twisted by many people. All that I met are Muslims and their Religion is of paramount importance to them. Many people try and portray Muslims in a negative and violent light but that is simply not true. They are more similar to the basis of Christianity than many Christians care to admit. They are not violent anymore than any other group of human beings. They closely follow their observance of their Religion especially prayer times and holidays such as Ramadan and Id.
The education levels here are severely lacking in most places but there are better schools and better teachers cropping up in some places and there are many places that now have Girl's schools opening. Many of the adults though cannot spell their own name or read. Their lack of the ability to read does lead to a problem when it encounter's their Religion though this is a problem they hardly have the monopoly on. Since many cannot read they rely on Mullahs to read and preach the Quran to them. As many can prolly guess this leads to the Mullah's views on certain subjects to be twisted into the religion. We have this problem even in the US though it is more the result of laziness than a lack of education. People in our own country choose instead of reading their own holy book to take the word from a preacher that in some cases may be corrupt or mixes their own bias into the sermon.
I saw many things good and bad in Afghanistan since I've been here but there is one thing I will remember more than any other. Early into the deployment we met a boy no more than 15 who approached us because he wanted more practice with his English. We began talking that day and then he found us again the next and then it got to be that he would come to the base to get help from us and we began to gain a friendship. We helped him in every way we could giving him books to read and talking with him for long lengths of time about his culture and ours. He has very big dreams for his future and his country. At 15 he is tutoring the young boys and girls in English and mathematics. He is working through his schoolwork and trying to find a way to go to college. He wants to be an Engineer to be able to help build his country up and construct better roads and just generally raise the standard of living. He never seemed interested in money or personal gain he truly seemed to want to help and make his country a better place.
He is the hope for Afghanistan. The next generation of kids like him who are pursuing education and working to make their countries better, they will be the driving force that will pull Afghanistan up from where it is.
I don't know if anyone will want to read this or will care about anything I've said here but it's something I felt needed to be written. Also this is my first Article and I wouldn't mind some constructive criticism.