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I do not look like an Afghan—never have, never will. My heavy build, broad jaw, and Scandinavian facial features are far removed from the typical Afghan’s narrow face and long, crooked nose. But I’d dyed my beard and eyebrows almost black, and covered my face and hands in brown skin cream. I wore a lungee, a traditional Afghan turban, on my head and the equally traditional salwar kameez set, which consisted of a khaki tunic and a baggy pair of trousers.

Under the tunic, I was kitted out with a bulletproof vest, a belt carrying a holstered 9mm H&K USP pistol, two extra magazines, a Gerber jack knife, and a radio connected to a discreet, skin-colored, molded ear piece. The Lowa desert boots I wore were the only thing visible that could reveal me as a soldier. But if something went wrong, I needed to be able to stand firmly.

After a few years away, I was back in Afghanistan. This country just wouldn’t loosen its grip on me. I was in one of the larger cities in the central part of the country with five other Jaegers, and had found myself in the most anonymous and self-effacing role of my career. The assignment was top secret. We were operating undercover amongst the local population.