During my time in service in Iraq and Afghanistan (pre-2007) we never had to work with any local forces, whether the Iraqi or the Afghan Army folks. We were always autonomous. Things have obviously changed much since that time as all U.S. forces, whether conventional or special operations, must always bring a contingent of the host nation’s military forces when conducting operations.
I, like most of you, have relied on the media to tell me how poorly trained the Afghan National Army and Police Force is. I also, like you, have seen the countless stories of Afghan Army or Police attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces, also known as “green on blue.” In my mind I thought that these guys were all the same and would often say to myself “Why the hell are we working with these radical, corrupt, and ungrateful people.” In the case of Afghan SOF, who number roughly 10,000, there has been only one green on blue incident.
Over time, I would hear about specific units in Afghanistan such as the Narcotics Interdiction Unit, the ANA Commandos, and the ANA Special Forces. And they were always good things from friends on the ground – private contractors in advising roles, or Rangers who work with them on operations. But I still had my doubts. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still just a pig.
Same goes for soldiers, You can give an inexperienced conscript multicam, night vision goggles, a pimped out M4, and other cool-guy U.S. SOF gear to make him look like a CAG operator, and he would still be as inept as your typical airsofter re-enacting Operation Anaconda in the woods behind his local Walmart. Although I trusted the opinion of my many friends on the ground, it wasn’t until I watched a six minute video that completely changed my outlook on these guys.
The video (below) was taken during the Afghan Commando selection course in January of 2012 at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan (named after a Special Forces soldier killed in Iraq in 2003).
I meet many people who tell me “I want to be a Ranger/SEAL/SF/PJ/etc” and I always look at them and say “That’s great dude, it’s a noble thing to aspire for!” Unfortunately the vast majority that I talk to would never make it and so far most have proved me right.
When you are constantly surrounded by SOF you know exactly what type of people call that community home. The people who talk to me about joining often are missing something that you can never pinpoint, but you know in your gut that something indeed is missing: patriotism, maturity, but most often intestinal fortitude as patriotism and maturity only get you so far.
When I watch the video of these ANA Commandos all I see in their eyes is dedication, love for country, and intestinal fortitude. I’m beyond happy that these guys are on our side.