Vive Rambo! 12

We owe the following to NCR, a reader and vet, who emailed it to us. It was written by a French soldier in Afghanistan. The translator is unknown.

We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while – they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. [It is the 101st Airborne – NCR] We live with them and have got to know them, and we know we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army.

They have terribly strong American accents – to us the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word?  Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine [Heh. More like Waffle House and McDonald’s – NCR) – they are all head and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them – we are wimps, even the strongest of us – and because of this they often mistake us for Afghans.

Honor, motherland – everything here reminds one of that: the American flag flying in the wind above the outpost … Even though recruits may often originate from the heart of American cities and gang territory, they all hold high and proud the star spangled banner.

Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provide them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is made aware of how much the American people back him in his difficult mission.

This is a first shock to our preconceptions: the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team is the focus of all his attention.

And they are impressive warriors!

We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you [that we think this] when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how.

The wearing of combat kit never seems to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.), and the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to trouble them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles, their sight unmoving in the direction of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues night and day. At night, all movements are performed in the dark – only a few subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered – everything happens in pitch dark, even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all – always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always with the shortest delay.

That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat-ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge! They disembark and assault in stride. They bomb first and ask questions later – which cuts any pussyfooting short.

This is one of the great strengths of the American force in combat and it is something that even our closest allies, such as the Brits and Aussies, find repeatedly surprising. No wonder it surprises the hell out of our enemies.

We seldom hear any harsh word from them, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit.

A passing American helicopter will stop near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright. An American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is.

From what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a splendid and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow upon us the honor of sharing their combat outposts, and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to America’s army deployed on Afghan soil, we owe this tribute, hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and always continue to hear them say that we are all a band of brothers.

Posted under Afghanistan, France, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, December 7, 2009

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