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"And they're not supposed to kill you while you're having chai with them"
September 19, 2009 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Afghan Lessons Learned for Soldiers - a collection of musings on life as a soldier in Afghanistan.

It's on Blogspot but not much of a blog per se, more just a convenient place to post observations. There are currently two pages of posts.

As a bonus for those interested in recent history in Afghanistan, be sure to bookmark/RSS Ghosts of Alexander.
posted by Burhanistan (13 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Alive in Afghanistan is citizens reporting about their political process.
posted by netbros at 2:12 PM on September 19, 2009


I found Chapter 3: Culture to have good stories. Thanks for this.
posted by yoHighness at 2:41 PM on September 19, 2009


Do they really need to procure for themselves all the things listed in that supply list? Doesn't the army supply their ammunition and towels and things?
posted by amethysts at 2:59 PM on September 19, 2009


@amethysts: You don't have to buy the stuff on the list. If you trust the Army-issued gear that was manufactured by the lowest bidder sometime after WW2. And if you're convinced that the Army will care about your comfort as much as you do.

Some of the Army-issued stuff is fine; some of the stuff is so worthless that (as the blog points out) some soldiers ditch the gear in rented storage lockers Stateside rather than carry it to Afghanistan.
posted by Wufpak at 3:48 PM on September 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pretty shocking to me that as a soldier deployed to combat, if you want to be properly equipped, you need to shell out personal $$$.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2009


I really get a kick out of reading things like this. It is like you e-mailed your best friend who lives in Hamburg that you're going there and he sends back a 10 page e-mail on what to do and how to do things efficiently. Stuff like this:

6. There is a vendor on the main FOB who can get you anything, you will find out his name when you get there. 10 American bucks for 1000 Roshans (Cell phone units)...DONT LET HIM TELL YOU OTHER WISE!

Knowing that there's a base in far-flung west Afghanistan and if I'm ever there, not to pay more than $10 for 1,000 Roshans! What is most amazing is that the Army doesn't have any kind of feedback mechanism. This guy had some pretty pointed comments about Fort Reilly. including very specific things that worked and didn't work. You'd think they'd have exit interviews to capture this kind of information. It also seems like they'd really do well with a blog and wiki system but are encumbered with bureaucratic things like the "Battle Command Knowledge System" that kind of works but doesn't.
posted by geoff. at 7:40 PM on September 19, 2009


Pretty shocking to me that as a soldier deployed to combat, if you want to be properly equipped, you need to shell out personal $$$.


Procurement can be a slow process, that can't always keep up with trends. Other times they need something that works good enough in many scenarios/climats rather than best in a specific scenario/climate. Then comes logistics of supply, repair and replacement.

OTOH, if you rely on your own gear you may be up shit creek when it breaks on you.
posted by furtive at 11:20 PM on September 19, 2009


Stuart Tootal at the Frontline Club discussing his book, Danger Close, which portrays his command of 3 Para and the conflict in Afghanistan.
posted by Abiezer at 11:28 PM on September 19, 2009


"All the gear - no idea"

- Australian Army saying
posted by mattoxic at 3:16 AM on September 20, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Do they really need to procure for themselves all the things listed in that supply list? Doesn't the army supply their ammunition and towels and things?"

As someone else said, army-issue is frequently shoddy and unreliable.

As an example for you of how little of a damn the Australian Army particularly gives about grunts (and I hear the US army isn't much better), my partner is on his second overseas tour now (first Iraq, now Afghanistan), and they haven't even got housing ready. He and the other guys in his squadron are living in tents. With air-conditioners that don't work. Consider that, and take a look at the temperatures in Afghan for the last few months.
As he's got a little bit of rank, he's treated slightly better than those who don't, who are still waiting on the list to get an air-conditioner that may or may not work.

They haven't finished building any amenities nearby either, so he walks 2kms to have a shower when he has the time.

My partner was also given a supply list like that, and I think we spent something like..maybe AU$2000 before he left, to get some decent-quality pieces of specific gear for him to take over.
posted by pseudonymph at 8:43 AM on September 20, 2009


It also seems like they'd really do well with a blog and wiki system but are encumbered with bureaucratic things like the "Battle Command Knowledge System" that kind of works but doesn't.

Actually, the "Battle Command Knowledge System" is part of AKO (Army Knowledge Online) which does contain wiki-like functionality, and a bunch of other things. But people have to contribute to it for it to work. And if you need a CAC to access it (I'm not sure if you do), that's going to keep you from doing it from your home PC unless you happen to have a CAC reader, which you won't.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2009


Soldiers have been buying "aftermarket" gear for war since time began. What has been proven to work reliably in a wide variety of climates and weather conditions (Army issue gear) may not work as well as something tailored specifically to one climate, a few conditions.

There is a feedback system, called CALL, Center for Army Lessons Learned. There is also Company Command, and I'm sure there are others.

On of the problems with formal systems to capture and spread knowledge like this is military software tends to be pretty clunky and not so user friendly.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:49 PM on September 20, 2009


Do they really need to procure for themselves all the things listed in that supply list?

They really don't. I can easily cut 20 things from the list and be fine. There is a difference between "need" and "want". Also, the authors of that list are both male senior NCOs who served with ETTs, so it's very much a YMMV kind of list.

Though, yeah, by now I've spent at least a grand or so on my own stuff. Frankly, I've deployed often enough that I've gotten my money's worth. What the Army provides is usually adequate, but if you're spending a year or more wherever, sometimes you'd rather just shell out the cash for superior equipment that suits your personal preferences.
posted by lullaby at 7:07 PM on September 20, 2009


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