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Sunday, August 8, 2010

My first encounter with the Afghan National Army (ANA)

I went with co-workers on Friday to trail climb Mount Ghar in Kabul, which is on an ANA base. Ghar means mount/mountain in Dari, so essentially we climbed Mount Mountain. Popular activity as it only open for specific hours on one day, as Ghar resides inside an active range. Ghar gives a great view of surrounding topography as well as the carcasses of Soviet tanks and BMPs left behind a few decades ago.
    As we were ascending, ANA officer candidates (OCS) were descending. The first few did not return the greeting of "Salaam" as they seemed singularly focused on reaching the parking lot to declare "first!" The main body candidates were much more easy going and jovial, especially after I initiated a Dari greeting. They stopped to smile, get their picture taken with me, or have me take their picture. I got a glimpse of real people, volunteers to not only fight for their country, but also go the extra step to be leaders of that effort. That short experience provided me a glimmer of hope that Afghanistan indeed has the capacity to develop a professional force of officers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Granted, there were a few bubbas that probably weren't going to see graduation day. And while I bit my tongue on how some candidates were carrying their weapons, I finally broke and on the spot corrected the last candidate I saw who was banging his barrel on the rocks by his feet. The fact he was going to be last off of the Ghar probably indicated he would be in the "thanks for playing" group that gets an early bus ride home.

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