Saturday, March 26, 2005

Either the beard goes, or I do . . .

One of the interesting quirks of Muslim culture generally, and Afghan culture specifically, and Pashtun culture even more specifically, is the emphasis on facial hair. A beard is a sign of manhood, and to be clean-shaven is considered effiminate, unmanly, and is more or less tantamount to an open admission of homosexuality (and not the older man-teenage boy kind, which is tacitly tolerated among the Pashtuns.) The Hazara, an ethnic group in Afghanistan who are descendants of the Mongols who came there with Genghis Khan, had a terrible time under the Taliban partly because many of them couldn't grow beards. They were, by the way, excellent, fiercely loyal soldiers who didn't mind playing a little catch-up now that they were on the side that was on top.

All US soldiers are expected to be clean-shaven, according to AR 670-1, the army regulation covering uniforms and appearance. That created a bit of a problem, since working with the Pashtuns while clean-shaven was a lot like being an undercover cop trying to infiltrate a biker gang while wearing a pink tutu and a lacy top. The powers that be had therefore, reluctantly, grudgingly, and sorrowfully, authorized SF teams working with the Afghans to grow beards. Of course, it being the Army and all, no way was there going to be a clean implementation of a policy that radical. AR 670-1 is the regulation most beloved of a certain kind of Sergeant Major and those who aspire to be a certain kind of Sergeant Major, and for them, allowing SF operators to grow beards was the biggest blow to their perception of what the Army should be since Clinton instituted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Also, while the senior leadership of the special operations task force endorsed the policy, they were ambivalant about the results, as were many of their subordinates. Part of it was horror: Even though SF is known for pushing the envelope of uniform regulations, outright disregard for them came hard for people who had spent an entire career in a regimented environment. Part of it was embarrassment: The rest of the Army was fighting the war and making time to shave every day, and I'm sure that there was some legitimate fear that many pointed comments would be made later about the troops with scruffy beards and no insignia on their uniforms. And part of it was simply envy: the senior leaders and support personnel were more or less stuck at Bagram airbase, managing and directing everything from the rear, while their juniors were out running around the countryside having the time of their lives. (More than once, I heard one of the rear echelon soldiers assigned to Bagram talking about how we were out there "living the myth." It was usually delivered as the preface to a snide backhanded comment about how little we appreciated the hard work they were doing back there to support us, but you could hear the undercurrent of jealousy; we were, in fact, living the myth: running around with our native troops, operating sua sponte, with little or no direct supervision, killing or capturing terrorists and disrupting their operations - in other words, we were being "real Green Berets" in a way most SF hadn't gotten a chance to be since Vietnam - and we were wearing beards and pakool hats or baseball caps while we did it.)

It didn't usually matter while we were out at the various A-camps, firebases, and other installations in the countryside - unless a dignitary was visiting, or horror of horrors, a journalist was around with a photographer in tow. The rule was that we were not, repeat not, allowed to be photographed unless we were cleaned up. Guidance on how to avoid that short of shooting at the press was not forthcoming. At one point, General Abizaid, basically the guy in charge of the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, visited a nearby firebase. The word went out: anyone with a beard either shaved, or found a mission that required them to be out of the firebase for the duration of the his visit - and made sure that they didn't come home until after the general left. I've always wondered if a man who was smart enough to become the CENTCOM commander was really fooled by all this sleight of hand, or if he at least suspected that some few of his soldiers had lost their deft touch with a daily razor.

Where it really became an issue whenever some of us had to go back to Bagram for one reason or another. There were a series of compromises that attempted to balance the need for facial hair with the need to pretend that it wasn't happening, and, like most compromises, the outcome was usually worse than choosing either one of the alternatives. The facial hair policy was one of those things that led us to question the smarts of the senior leadership we had. Our feeling was that, if they agreed that having facial hair was a good thing for us, they should support and defend the policy, and take whatever heat that it generated, even to enduring snarky remarks from senior officers and Sergeants Major in other units.

And it was the right policy - much of the body language and cultural interaction of a Pashtun revolved around the beard. It wasn't unusual for a Pashtun who was trying to garner sympathy to stroke his own beard, then stroke the beard of the person to whom he was talking. Rubbing beards , or stroking the beard, was a common greeting between friends. It wasn't that we were going to fool anybody into thinking we were Afghan (although a surprising number of people assumed that we were Muslim once the beards had come in); it was that the beards, along with learning the customs and a little bit of the language, made the people that we had to talk to for cooperation or information more comfortable. In the end, it made a marked difference.

But, had the command come out and said "Look, we think that adhering to grooming regulations is more important than getting along culturally - now shave that damn beard off!" it would have been one thing. We would have thought that they were terribly shortsighted, narrowminded and out of touch with what was going on out in the field. But we wouldn't have thought they were a bunch of gibbering idiots. What they came up with, though, made us wonder. The beards were authorized, an exception to policy was authorized, but the senior SF leadership wanted to be able to pretend that it wasn't really happening. Hence, a number of weird and arcane policies were instituted - the gist of which was, "Grow the beard, but don't let anyone in the army know that you've got one, or they might want one too." The problem that arose was, of course, that while it takes 10-15 minutes to shave a beard off (it actually is a more complicated process than I would have thought before I grew one), it takes at least a month to grow a decent one. And, it's a pretty itchy month at that. They're not bad once they're sufficiently long, but the growing in process is uncomfortable.

At first, the policy was simply not to go off Camp Vance (the main SF compound on Bagram) with a beard while in uniform. That one actually made sense, because you could be anybody in civilian clothes - and there were enough civilian contractors running around Bagram to make wearing jeans and a t-shirt plausible. That policy, however, apparently led to complaints that the SF guys out in the field got to wear civvies off of Camp Vance, and nobody else did - so we were told we couldn't wear civilian clothes off of the compound. That meant, in effect, that the one time in a month or six weeks we had an opportunity to use the (minimal) PX, or the Dragon mess hall that actually had much better food than did Camp Vance, we could either shave the beard or stay on the SF compound as if it were a leper colony. Yes, I admit, we were probably bad soldiers over the issue - it wasn't an unlawful regulation, just stunningly stupid - but that had to have been the most quickly circumvented rule ever promulgated. On the other hand, one of the oldest chestnuts in the Army leadership book is "Never give an order that you know won't be obeyed" so I kinda have to ask "what were they thinking?" No-one that I know confined themselves to the compound - especially the guys who dipped and needed desperately to visit their only supply for Copenhagen whenever they got a chance.

So came the next move in the little hirsute chess game we were playing - get in and get out quickly. Anyone on Camp Vance for more than 24 hours was required to shave. Now, nobody needed to be encouraged to get away from Bagram just as quickly as possible, but usually it wasn't possible to get anything done in a day. If you showed up for supplies or paperwork one day, you'd always be short a signature or a truck until the next. The loophole there was the phrase "on Camp Vance." There was an annex, known as the German compound (because German SF stayed there when they were in Afghanistan), so we stayed there and only ventured onto Vance when absolutely necessary (and preferably under cover of darkness.) That actually lasted several months before anyone caught on, so we considered it a success. After that was scotched and the policy extended to cover the German compound, we unilaterally reversed the original policy and began to wear civilian clothes when we went onto Camp Vance. That led to us getting chewed out one night, but over the wrong thing. I was proudest of just how scruffy I had become when I found myself getting chewed out by one of the camp guards, because civilian contractors such as myself weren't allowed onto Camp Vance "without a work order." Of course, I smoothed things over by telling him that it wouldn't happen again - I was just there to pick up a few tools we had left behind.

The "I'm not really in the Army, even though I'm carrying a gun" strategy actually worked for us more than once. A few of us from my team found ourselves in Kandahar on a temporary assignment. We had been attached to an SF team that had the horrible misfortune to have been stuck on Bagram for the entire deployment. This team was working on a mission in conjunction with a SEAL platoon, and we were down there to help out. All of us - SF, SEALs and some support guys - found ourselves living in the SF compound on Kandahar for almost a week. The SEAL platoon was newly arrived in country, and the SF team had been stuck on Bagram, so only the three of us from our team had beards, and we were going right back out into the countryside when we got done at Kandahar. The Kandahar SF compound, however, had almost the same byzantine facial hair policies that existed on Bagram, so by rights, we should have shaved the first night we got in. We dodged it by staying in civilian clothes whenever we weren't actually training, which led most of the army guys assigned to the compound to assume that we were either civilian support specialists or Navy intel weenies (even less military than the civilians, in their opinion.)

I didn't realize how firmly the assumption that we were navy guys had taken hold until late one night after we returned from a training exercise. We had missed supper because we were out training. That wasn't a problem, since we were told that we'd have hot chow waiting for us when we got back in. I thought that was remarkably civilized - missing chow for training usually means getting thrown a box of MREs as a substitute. When we got told "hot chow would be waiting", we thought it was being set up just for us. What they actually meant, it turns out, was that there was a late night meal laid on every night at 2300 (11pm, actually, since I'm in the National Guard), and we were welcome to join in. We got back a little bit after 10pm, stowed our gear and headed over to the mess hall. Dan and I were a little behind everyone else, since we stopped to change back into civvies before heading over. One of the guys comes back around the corner, and tells everyone the main door's locked. Not a problem: we checked the back door and it was open. They probably had the front door locked to keep other people from rogueing our chow. Once inside, we found a pretty nice supper laid out, and proceeded to tuck in.

Probably around 10:40pm or so, Dan and I finished up and headed back towards the tents. We'd made it maybe 20 feet from the messhall when we were confronted by the First Sergeant of the support company that, among other things, ran the messhall. "What the hell are you people doing?" Well, it seemed obvious to us, but it never pays to be rude to the guys that control the food: "We were eating - by the way, thanks for laying that on for us." Well, that really set him off - we had broken into the chow hall to eat early, we had ignored the posted chow times, we had been very bad people indeed. I tried explaining that we had been told the chow was there for us, and we didn't understand that we were supposed to wait until 2300 - hell, that was the first we knew the chow hall was open at 2300. That didn't make him any happier, but it did transfer his anger from us to the chain of command that had miscommunicated the chow message, and he made it clear that he intended to take it up with them right away. He looks at us and snaps "Where's your master chief?" Now, a Master Chief is the senior enlisted rank in the navy - equivalent to a Sergeant Major. The proper thing to do would, of course, have been to set the record straight, explain to the First Sergeant that we were in the army, and suggest that he take up any complaint with the Major who was in charge of us. But, at the time, it seemed easier to say, as I did then "Y'know, I don't know right this second, but I can find him for you if you need him." The First Sergeant tells us that he'll find him later, and that was the last we ever heard about breaking and entering into his messhall. As Dan and I were walking back to our tent, he leans over and whispers "That guy was in the Q course with me. He was on my team in Robin Sage." It turns out that Dan had gone through Special Forces training with the guy who was now First Sergeant of Support Company, and had been in close company with him (on the same team) for the last month of training. Dan recognized him right away, but the First Sergeant never saw through the unkempt hair, shaggy beard and scruffy clothes.

The great irony, of course, is that no-one outside of Camp Vance seemed to care. There were a number of military and civilian organizations with people running around Camp Vance, many of whom were not subject to uniform regulations. These ranged from government agencies with 3-letter acronyms (yes, that's right, the DMV had a branch office there) to the electricians, carpenters and plumbers provided by Brown and Root (a division of Halliburton, and actually known now as Kellogg, Brown and Root, or KBR, thus proving that everyone wants to be a 3-letter acronym.) In other words, once off of Camp Vance, nobody knew or cared why somebody was sporting a beard (oh, I'm sure that the odd conventional unit Sergeant Major here and there might suspect, but they weren't going to confront anybody over it, as long as they weren't wearing US Army insignia along with the facial hair - beards were covered by a de facto "don't ask, don't tell" policy of their very own. )

Of course, it could have been worse - a team that was there on the rotation before us got a temporary assignment to support a Civil Affairs unit working in Herat, in the Southwest. They knew going in that the assignment to civil affairs would last about six weeks, and they'd be right back out with their Afghan militia after that - so they decided not to shave their beards just to have to regrow them. The civil affairs guys had no problem with that decision, but one of the senior SF officers back at Bagram did. He told them to shave and stay clean-shaven until they finished their temporary assignment. (Even though the senior officer outranked anyone on the team, he couldn't technically order them to shave - he could just express a strong preference, with the unspoken promise of trouble later if the team defied his wishes; which is exactly what he did.)

Since Herat was halfway around the country, the senior officer wasn't able to actually check to see if the team was shaving. So, he hit upon what seemed to be a beautiful idea to enforce their compliance. Each team in Afghanistan was issued something called an SOI - Signal Operating Instructions - which contained all of the information (frequency lists, for instance) used for communication. There was a part of this particular SOI that was changed every week. The new information was sent to the teams by radio the day before it changed, so nobody would know what it would be until it arrived over the air. The team was instructed to take a team picture every week with the new SOI information held up on a sign in front of them, and to transmit it back to Bagram. A frankly brilliant plan taking excellent advantage of the technological sophistication of the US military - applied, of course, not to winning the war with the Taliban, but to winning the war between Bagram and the deployed teams. Fortunately for this particular team, though, every really brilliant plan has a fatal flaw. Just as technology made it possible for Bagram to monitor the stubble level of a team across the country, so too did technology allow the team to "get over" on the situation. This team had taken several team photos when they first arrived in country, while they were still clean-shaven, and, in these pictures, they were holding up a sign with their team number on it. It was a simple enough process to photoshop the SOI information onto the sign and send a new picture back to Bagram every week. And the cat and mouse game continued . . .

30 Comments:

Blogger JACK ARMY said...

Fantastic story. I have often wondered about the whole beard thing. I saw a few pictures and some video of what I took to be SF operators with healthy looking beards. I wondered how they could avoid any sergeants major for long enough to grow those beards. I knew that guys were putting up with inordinate amounts of bullshit over a policy that makes just too much sense.

Hell, I think everyone in the Army in Afghanistan should have grown beards.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Chevy Rose said...

And Washington wonders why our intel is so poor in that part of the world. CIA, FBI, DEA, all probably have same rule. Keep safe, just found your site today.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Great story! That last part with the photoshop is classic!

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Lilly said...

Excellent story! I watched a documentary on Discovery Times a couple of months ago about Special Forces in Afghanistan. All the guys had their sunglasses and baseball caps on during interviews, and their names were L,G,F,H,K...etc.. And they all had their full beards. The narrator explained with some detail the cultural significance of facial hair. I can't believe the Army would give you such grief about it. You'd think they'd have better things to worry about.

2:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hahaha, that was a good one. On the cover of Masters of Chaos they actually have two SF guys with beards on. It's too bad I couldn't grow a beard if my life depended on it, I guess I'll just have to live life as a girly-man. It also limits your choice of cool facial hair styles, but I guess it's also a lot easier, so I can't complain.

Tom M

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderfully told story. Thanks for the insight into several cultures.
Thought the SF was "can do" from top to bottom. A little disillusioning to read of sufferings due 1st SGTs and Officers being hidebound and fearful of consequences from outside the community. It makes you seem ten feet tall instead of the previously imagined eleven

W/ deep respect and admiration for a job superbly done, V/R JW

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Camo man, that's what it's all about! BTW, since the DMV is all set up there for bidness, any chance that I could get an Afgan drivers license? Here in Colorado our DMV sells them to the highest bidder so I'm sure it's OK. Great story and we are PROUD OF YOU GUYS.

P.S. Isn't that Photoshop good kit?

6:45 PM  
Blogger Papa Ray said...

They should have given this Marine General a call.

He would have been grateful for the "info straight from the field".

Papa Ray

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Willy, Texas said...

I got to your Blog via Muville.It's as good as a W.E.B Griffin's Special Ops Chapter.

10:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roger that!
I was a Navy Intel weenie back in '68-74' and stationed in north Africa. We didnt even have military ID but diplomat passports. In Arab countries we had to dress and look like we werent in the service. Plus we had Adm Zumwalt that pissed off all the other branches by letting us grow our hair to our collar and wear beards. Some of the stright leg guys dont know that j2 and SF have to do what they can to 'fit in'
In the Navy back then we called them 'beggars' you have to treat them like senior citizens. They dont know any better...

2:17 AM  
Blogger Maggie45 said...

You guys are just the coolest. Yes, I was going to mention the pics in "Masters of Chaos", but another poster beat me to it. One of the most fascinating books I've ever read.

4:10 AM  
Blogger azlibertarian said...

Cool blog. I came in through Blackfive.

I've been out of the Air Force 18 years now, and I've never been a "Been There, Done That" kind of guy, but here is my humble story along the same lines....

I spent my last year or so in scheduling airlift for a C130 unit. One of my users was a SEAL detachment. Once a month or so, the SEALs would need to get their proficiency jumps in. So typically, we would send a plane down to pick them up and they'd jump on the drop zone at our base (they didn't have a drop zone at theirs). Usually, the first guy out the door would be the scheduling guy who I did all the coordinating with. After his jump, he'd head over to my office and we'd set up the following month's jumps.

On one of these days, I was in my office speaking to this SEAL. A SEAL who is in a SEAL uniform--SEAL cover (in his hand, of course), Army-brown t-shirt, little khaki shorts [for those of you old enough, envision male hot-pants], and jungle boots. A completely correct and authorized SEAL uniform.

Now, I wasn't going to say anything about his uniform: As I say, he wasn't wearing anything incorrectly. Besides--Let's keep in mind that he's a SEAL--a guy who eats snakes and, even then during the peacetime Cold War days--had really Been There and Done That. And I'm just a weenie Air Force officer in a MAC unit.

However, on this day, I was also getting a visit from a higher headquarters guy. A pot-bellied, bald-headed, prim-and-proper, by-the-regulation REMF. Folks, I'm here to tell you, every service has their REMFs, but there's nothing like an Air Force REMF.

So after the SEAL left, this guy begins to lay into me about how I just ignored the outrageous uniform this guy had on, and how I ought to conduct my business more professionally.

I kindly (he was in my chain-of-command, after all) clued him in on just who he had his panties in a twist about, and he huffed his way out of my office, and I never heard another thing about it.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Tim Thumb said...

I think the HAZARA, not the TAJIK, are the supposed descendants of Genghis Khan and the Mongolians.

5:02 AM  
Blogger devildog6771 said...

Different situation but also as absurd. My Btn. Com. decided we needed to dress more like ladies and we also needed a midnight curfew. One was to inprove our image the other was to "keep" us from getting pregnant!

When I brought it up at the company meeting everyone else in the company voiced their veiws too. The C.O. heard what we had to say. Then she reiterated the Colonel's orders and her reasons.

By then, I was fairly frustrated so I gave the usual with all due respect maam bit and said, "we are on a base about 75% male.

You want us to dress more feminine and come in before midnight to save our reputation and virtue. With all due respect maam, anything that I could do after midnight I could do just as easily before midnight!"

Our redheaded C.O. got really red in the face, and asked me to take my seat but the whole company applauded.

Shortly there after those orders just kind of melted into whereever dumb orders go.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Special Forces Alpha Geek said...

Damn, Damn, Damn - Tim Thumb is right, of course: it is the Hazara who are reputed to be the descendants of the Mongols who rode through with Ghengis. I shouldn't have made that mistake - especially since we had Hazara with us in most of the rotations. (It's what happens when I type faster than I think - If this were a book, I'd have to fix it in the second edition. As is, I'll change it now.)
Thanks, Tim.

6:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was in Afghanistan with the 82nd 02-03 and like you said nobody else cared what you looked like. Just do your job and be professional about it. In that culture the beard was a tool so that the locals could identify with you. The problem with the SGMs and CSMs is that once you get to that level, it's very easy to get bored. Once you're bored bad and counterproductive things tend to happen.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

Have you ever considered growing "mutton-chops" like Flashman?

just curious...

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i cant believe this. Australian special forces wouldnt hesitate to grow beards WITH official approval if it was of some percieved advantage. US Commanders need to start taking the war on terror a little more seriously.

9:48 AM  
Blogger Tim Thumb said...

In fairness, the issue was always larger than just whether or not sporting beards supports our strategic objectives and the "jealousy" of those that can't do the same thing.

Initially, many NGOs and PVOs believed that SOF adoption of "Afghan" uniform items (from the beards to the scarves, etc.) made it harder to distinguish combatants from non-combatants, and that this was making the non-combatants targets. As NGOs got targeted, they responded by having fewer and fewer personnel in the combat zone, and this, in turn, would make our strategic objectives unattainable since we are heavily reliant upon their resources to achieve reconstruction and political stability. Of course, the reason they were being targeted is because the Taliban/HIG/AQ/et. al. are targeting the NGOs precisely *because* they bring reconstruction and thereby extend the authority of the central govt. But it's hard for the NGOs to realize this break from a concept of neutrality that protected them for centuries.

Additionally, the jury's out on whether having a beard really does that much with the Pushtun elders. Maybe some of them, but definitely not all of them, and the degree of advantage conferred by the long beard is probably miniscule. They understand that our culture is different from theirs and do not hold us to their standards. Hamid Karzai, after all, is a Pushtun tribal chief and sports no beard at all.

The point being: was the advantage of wearing the beard worth more than the disadvantage of NGOs getting hit and feeling insecure? Like it or not, they have the ability to create an enduring security through reconstruction and development-- without them, the Coalition will be in Afghanistan for decades and still have nothing to show for it...

1:51 AM  
Blogger Special Forces Alpha Geek said...

This time, I have to disagree with Tim. While it may be true that the Pashtuns who were fairly used to dealing with Westerners didn't place a lot of stock in the beard, that level of sophistication stopped at the government in Kabul, the provincial governors, and some of, but not most of, the sub-governors and provincial government personnel - especially those in the more urban areas around, say, J'bad, A'bad or Ghazni. Get down into Torwah, Wazarqua, Zormat, or Khost and "looking" Pashtun made a good bit of difference in dealing with typical walk-ins, tribal elders, and the like - and the last time I saw Karzai, he had a beard, albeit a short, neatly trimmed one.

Also, I'd have understood the reasoning had our command come out and said - get rid of the beards, and get back into helmets, because we don't want to blur the line between non-combatant and combatant (nobody was going to mistake us for non-combatants, by the way. While we wore beards and native headgear, we typically had on either desert or woodland camo uniforms and body armour.) What was frustrating, and a bit comical, was the stance that the beards were mission essential, but could not be justified to the rest of the Army.

And, I think that may of the NGOs who complained about being targeted because SF didn't look like conventional soldiers were simply in denial. They were being targeted because they were seen as bringing stability to the area - but the mindset of somebody who works for an NGO typically is something like "I'm trying to do good, so anyone who tries to hurt me must be mistaken - and somehow it must be George Bush's fault." The idea that they were being targeted precisely because of what the ACM thought they were doing seemed to be foreign to them. And, it wasn't hard to pick the foreign NGS reps out from the soldiers and the locals - they were better dressed, and were driving nicely painted Land Cruisers instead of local automobiles.

Besides, to be honest, I'm not sure how much good the foreign NGO reps were doing there,anyway. Most of what good the NGOs did in Afghanistan was funneling money into the local economy and hiring local workers - or bringing in workers from other parts of the third world to actually do the work. The local workers and other third world workers were the ones getting things done (and running almost all the risks.) I almost never saw an actual western NGO rep outside of Kabul, where they spent most of their time drinking, partying and driving local prices up with other western NGO reps and journalists. The only exceptions to that were seeing one of them make the occasional visit to one of the UN compounds in A'bad or Gardez, behind the signature of serious security. I appreciated the money they kicked in, but I was shocked by how little work was being put into making sure it was spent well. In terms of bang for the buck, I think that the Army's CERP program was actually doing more good.

Too, frankly, I found the typical NGO rep's eagerness to engage in the moral equivalence game to be distressing. I understand that a) NGOs were trying to dissociate themselves from the US Army to make them less of a target, and b) they were trying to preserve some level of independence so they could be seen as good faith actors by the bad guys. But, even in private, they seemed to resent both that the US was there, and that it had put them into a position where they could do their jobs. They certainly didn't mind working at cross-purposes to the people who had gained them entry to the country. And, in at least one case, western NGOs were actively aiding ACM forces. So I suppose I should be grateful that they weren't out running around the countryside - they'd have been even more difficult to deal with. I think that more effort needed to be put into stabilizing the local government and letting them deal (albeit probably with NGO help) with the infrastructure issues that Afghanistan needs desperately to deal with, instead of having the NGOs competing with the Afghan government for influence in the country.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Brian H said...

Ever hear of the Toyota Taliban? Arrogant NGO types in heavy 4x4s charging thru traffic, and passing the rest of their time spending as much as possible on themselves, no receipts required.

5:07 AM  
Blogger exMI said...

I realize this is an old thread and no one will probably read this but I wore a beard in AF too. While at Bagram we always wore civilian clothes too. the only time I put on the uniform (even then it was sterile)was when I went out to the field in support of some operation.
As to the effect of the beards, well I can honestly say that when we were out in the countryside with the infantry the guys in the village would alwasy walk up to me and the terp first. We were the ones with beards. If the terp was obviously talking to someone without a beard they would come up and stand around me until he came over to help us. I really wish I had been able to speak Pashtu.

This policy held until very near the end of our tour when some SGM from the 10 Mountain got bent out fo shape and our company command caved to outside presure. First sterile uniforms with beards (that must be neatly trimmed)then no beards and regular uniforms by the time we left. Our replacemnet unit was having the same fight when we left. Thier chain was holding a little more firm than ours did.

1:03 AM  
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4:07 AM  
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3:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just got back from there in aug/2005 and i was with 3rd sfg and its unbelieveable how much different it is on camp vance and the "outside"

10:26 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

This for sharing this

info about hazara people of Afghanistan in this blog

http://hazaranation.blogspot.com

6:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been growing my beard and hair since '68. It's what tells everybody that I'm a man.

Thanks for protecting us!

When you get out, maybe someday we could ride together.


Bro Duke
Club Mud

8:48 AM  
Blogger d@vK3nR3m said...

Out F***ing Standing!!! The end of the story is just perfect.

12:20 PM  
Blogger Amanullah said...

Anti Pashtun Propaghanda, when do we pashtuns allow older men to sleep with teenagers, thats like me saying u Anglos give ur sons to ur bishops to play with. Stop this Anti Pashtun propaghanda. Hazara were not discriminated against becos they cudnt grow a beard, they were hated becos they were seen as foreigners and reminder of the cruel rule of mongols and secondly they are mostly all Shias. Stop these lies about pashtuns!

11:10 PM  
Blogger Slava Rybalka said...

It's a pleasure to read your blog about Special Forces. I also post on the similar topic. I write about Navy SEALs and Delta Force. Please have a look when you have time. Special Force

4:48 PM  

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