Friday, January 30, 2009


Careful with assumptions….

One might assume, for instance, that when the Army delivers you a fuel blivet the blivet will in fact contain fuel. You then might put the ‘fuel’ from the blivet into your generator and your generator might in fact become irreparably damaged in the process since the fuel was spiked with water.

Or one could imagine that the living at 5000 feet of elevation in Afghanistan would lead to a cold winter, but then you’ll live through much of it without even experiencing snowfall.

One might believe that the Afghan soldiers would chop down the nearby trees for firewood rather than destroying their own fighting positions on the base by chopping up the wood the bunkers are made of. A quick look around will confirm that supposition to be erroneous.

One might be tempted to assume that a 180 pound healthy young American could carry a large ammo can full of water on his back up a mountain as least as fast as a 45 year-old 140 pound Afghan soldier that looks to be 60. Don’t count on that assumption being met.

When you put your gear into a humvee you might think the driver knows how to park the vehicle. But after the driver gets out and the humvee ends up at the bottom of a ravine you realize you gave him too much credit. However, you look on the bright side and note that all the trees it knocked over are easy pickings for firewood.

A reasonable man might assume that a firefight won’t erupt outside his door while he’s having tea in the home of the second most influential person in the area. He also might assume that his Afghan soldiers will take cover while the bullets are flying around, but then he sees his Afghans standing and smoking cigarettes and wonders why he’s surprised.

One might also assume that the Afghan soldiers are not so poor that they’re going to pick up spent cartridges in the middle of a shootout. Usually this is a correct assumption, but depending on the soldiers’ assessment of the danger level they may be more concerned with collecting brass to sell at the local shop than they are about fighting.

Most of us would assume that a group of Afghan soldiers living practically at subsistence level due to never-ending problems with their supply chain and corruption would not insist that the Americans they live with partake in their food every night since those Americans have plenty of food of their own…but then you’d be foolish to underestimate Afghan hospitality.

After giving a class on how to operate a claymore mine, one might rightfully assume that a claymore won’t be activated accidentally that same day. It doesn’t take long to realize your assumptions were not met in this case either - maybe a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

When a truck breaks down in your driveway one would suppose that the owner would do everything possible to get the part for the truck so that he can get the truck moving again. A month later when the truck still hasn’t moved you might want to rethink…and in the process learn that the guy is getting paid whether his truck makes deliveries or not.

After our forces have been in the region for years one might assume that the local people know that the Afghan soldiers are in fact practitioners of the Islamic faith. But after you finally convince the local commander to send the Afghan soldiers to the town mosque to pray, don’t be surprised if you learn that many of the local people didn’t know the Afghan National Army is made up of Muslims.

You could even assume that an Afghan soldier standing post early in the evening would not shoot at group of people clearly shining a flashlight and traveling down the road from the nearby base. This is the kind of assumption that could really get you into trouble but thankfully you learn not to make that assumption before someone gets hurt.

One might finally assume that Afghan soldiers that gaffe off daily patrols in relatively safe areas don’t know what they’re doing, don’t care, and might not give the effort required when the situation gets tough. But when the gunfire starts, you watch them turn around, run not away but toward its source, and then open up on the fire’s origin with everything they’ve got - and you realize you were wrong again.


Little Bill said...

Absolutely loved your format, humor and insight. Reminded me of Mark Twain. Great stuff. Please do more of it. Thanks

Rajesh said...

Nice & witty article on Assumptions.
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