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Making Contact

09/07/10 7:55AM By Larry Doane
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Report From Afghanistan

Photo ourtesy US Army Public Affairs
Captain Larry Doane and Brigadier General Sharsai of the Afghan National Police during their weekly security meeting in Ghazni, Afghanistan

(Host)  This week, VPR begins our Report From Afghanistan coverage.  VPR commentator Larry Doane is a Captain in the Guard.  During the year-long deployment, he's been recording his thoughts as his unit carries out its mission. 

Today, in the first entry of his audio journal, Larry Doane reflects on the nature of his duties in Afghanistan.

(Doane) My kids often ask me exactly what it is we do all day here.  I try to explain the concept of a combat patrol to them and attempt to fend them off with the usual "finding bad guys" but I can tell they're not convinced. 

This lack of an answer makes me ask myself the same question.  What exactly are we doing all day around here, anyway?  I could go with the book answer.  Protect the Afghan people, support the government, develop Afghan forces; but words only tell me why I'm here, not what exactly I'm supposed to be doing.  The actual steps to a patrol are pretty simple.  Pack your stuff, check the oil in the truck, make sure you look at a map and know where you're going. 

When I was in Iraq the next step was clear.  We would drive off of the base and roll around looking for trouble until we found it, or it found us.  But Afghanistan is a different war.  More often than not our objective isn't to capture someone or attack some Taliban target.  Instead we conduct SLE and KLE, or when translated from the Army, Street Level and Key Leader engagements. 

I love the Army, but only an organization like ours could make an acronym up to mean ‘go talk to people'.  But that's what we really do here.  We talk to kids on the street, sidewalk vendors chat us up about security and the weather.  Unit leaders, like myself, spend most of their time drinking chai, the local tea.  We listen to the concerns of local leaders and talk with them about their problems.

Like my Afghan National Police counterpart, General Sharsai.  He is my best friend here in Afghanistan despite the nearly 30 year difference in our ages.  And we talk often, of security and family and our shared hopes for peace.  It might seem to the casual observer that a soldier should spend more time doing and less time talking, but I'm not so sure about that anymore.

Since coming here, I've seen the right few words over a cup of chai have far more impact than a 2000 pound bomb. 

Note:  Tomorrow Captain Doane will describe his daily routine as a unit commander.  And beginning Saturday, VPR's Steve Zind will begin reporting from  Afghanistan. Click here to read his Reporter's Journal.

Click "Listen" to hear Doane's thoughts.




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