Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pfinish

"The truth is a snare: you cannot have it, without being caught. You cannot have the truth in such a way that you catch it, but only in such a way that it catches you." - Soren Kierkegaard
"Finish" was one word our ANA knew in English. They'd been around Americans long enough to pick up that one very useful word at least. They pronounce it kind of like "pfinish", but the point is they knew what it meant. The word itself actually became a powerful camaraderie-building tool for us, as it really allowed the ETTs and the ANA to communicate directly with each other without the need for a terp, albeit in a very limited way, though one might be surprised how far that one word can go....

We might hear them say something like "Dooshman (the Pashto word for enemy) pfinish!!" when we were back at the base debriefing after the gunfights. I can recall a Marine saying "House is finish" to a couple of ANA and them returning huge gap-toothed grins after a bomb was dropped on a mud hut. Saying "Finish" after a meal meant the ANA might stop exhorting you to eat and drink more. When the ANA went to look for a blivet of fuel that we allowed to go rolling down the mountainside, they came back and pretty accurately described the blivet and its contents as "Finish". Saying "Finish" and holding empty hands in the air in reference to whatever the ANA were asking us for might get them off our case briefly.

In the end, for myself and the other ETTs I worked with, our time with the ANA was finished. Our ANA are still there, likely doing the same things, and playing the same games, that they did with us, but the reality is they can't escape from the war the way we can. Not that I feel sorry for them; they'll need to take ownership of their situation if they want it to improve, but it was always important to keep in mind that the ANA are in it for the long haul when we became frustrated at their lack of initiative.

Someday the fighting in Afghanistan may even be finished. Whatever the case may be for the future of the war, it is most definitely time for this blog to be finished. I had a few more topics on my list, but it's time to move on.

My heartfelt thanks to everyone who's read and supported this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it...

13 comments:

Snead said...

Thanks for writing. I hope you'll leave the site up for others to discover.

Paul said...

Thanks for the blog. I've enjoyed it.

Question: I can't find an email for you, and I'm a reporter who writes about this stuff for a living, and I'd love to talk to you about your experiences as an ETT. I embedded with an ETT in Khost a few months back, and I'm working on a larger piece about it. Can you shoot me an email at pjmcleary (at) gmail.com ?

Best,
Paul

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/04/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Heather said...

Thank you for thoughtful, beautiful blog. I teach English Composition and use the blog as a text to talk about both writing and the war. I hope that you will leave the blog and continue post your post-embedded experiences.

James Gundun said...

K, your portrait of the relationship between US and ANA troops is invaluable. Your blog, at least to me, suggests that President Obama won't be finishing Afghanistan when he thinks he will. The ANA are the future, especially if they can combine their local advantages with US training, but that future seems further away than US policy makers believe. Might not have been your intent, but thanks for the insight and heads up.

madtom said...

Nothing left but to thank you for a great blog which I have enjoyed reading.

Hank said...

Thanks for job a well done.
Actually two jobs- an ETT striving to attain an objective important to our security and maintaining this informative, well written blog.
Respectfully,
Hank

Callsign Sherpa said...

Please allow me this opportunity to thank you both for your service, and for your words. I'm gearing up on a similar path later this year, and haven't found many resources as up-to-date and boots-on-the-ground insightful as your blog. Let me echo the wish that you maintain the site as a potential lessons-learned source for others headed downrange.

If and when you can, zap me at sherpa (at) redbullrising.com. I'd like to ask you some questions regarding other ETT resources, the joys of mil-blogging, etc.

In the meantime, Semper Fi from an Army guy ...

Wesley R. Gray said...

great blog! time to write a book! i want the full enchilada!
s/f wes

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your service to our country. I really enjoyed reading this blog and hope to see more about your experiences with an ETT and your post-embedded assessments in the future. The media does not capture the real essence of these mission experiences. Your excellent writing style really connects with readers.

Anonymous said...

I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to write up your experiences. They've been incredible to read through.

Wishing you all the best.

looney8541 said...

Just found your blog. Not sure if you ever come back to this to read the comments.
I was a Marine ETT in Shkin in 2005. I have only read a few posts but intend to come back to read the rest. Great stuff.
Love your bit on "being careful with assumptions".
We certaily experianced a lot of the same things.
I came away for the deplyment forever changed. Truely believe the ETT experiance was like no other. The lessons we learned by living and working so closely with the ANA can't be taught in an "lessons learned" class. It was truley life changing for me.

Semper Fi,

Jamie

looney8541 said...

Just found your blog. Not sure if you ever come back to this to read the comments.
I was a Marine ETT in Shkin in 2005. I have only read a few posts but intend to come back to read the rest. Great stuff.
Love your bit on "being careful with assumptions".
We certaily experianced a lot of the same things.
I came away for the deplyment forever changed. Truely believe the ETT experiance was like no other. The lessons we learned by living and working so closely with the ANA can't be taught in an "lessons learned" class. It was truley life changing for me.

Semper Fi,

Jamie
USMC 1990- 2006