08 December 2011

Why Would You Volunteer for Afghanistan?

A Navy LT struggles with that decision, and documents it over at NYTimes.com

On one hand, there were many reasons not to go. There were the obvious safety concerns with deploying to a war zone. I knew little about Afghanistan, but I had known people who had been wounded and killed there. Additionally, I was enjoying civilian life in Barcelona and returning to the hardship of a military deployment, especially in Afghanistan, would be difficult. Lastly, I had left the military to move to a new career, and delaying law school was a step in the opposite direction.

On the other hand, I had many reasons to go, all personal, none of which particularly involved heroism or patriotism. I had never deployed to a war zone, and it was an experience that I wanted to have. I personally supported our efforts in Afghanistan, and I felt I could contribute there. And finally, for better or worse, the war in Afghanistan was a piece of history, and I wanted to be part of it. Many of these reasons echoed my original goals from when I first approached a Navy recruiter years ago, as a senior in college.

In the end, I did not experience an exact epiphany, nor was I swayed by any specific words. However, of the counsel offered by friends and family, two comments made an especially strong impression. The first was from my father, who argued against my going. “If you go, I think your time in Afghanistan will change and define you for the rest of your life,” he told me. The second was from a Spanish friend, Cristian, who said, “I think you want to go, but you need to convince yourself it is the best thing for you.” Their words and the words of others helped me realize that the reasons I had were enough. Two days later, I replied to my reserve unit and accepted the mobilization to deploy to Afghanistan.

I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of those of you who volunteered to go (or considered it) and what decision you ultimately came to.

By: Brant


Guardian said...

Not sure if I count, since I was just "contractor scum" :), but I suppose I did volunteer. I had several major reasons:

1) I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.

2) I wanted to prove to myself that I could handle it.

3) Adventure and excitement. ("Adventure, heh. Excitement, heh. A Jedi craves not these things." - Yoda)

4) I wanted to do my part to help the troops and support the national effort. Time and experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq have made me cynical about the counter-insurgency effort, but I still believe in the CT effort and want to help the troops. Whether the COIN mission is really a good idea or not, the troops deserve the best support we can provide.

My deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq have been major landmarks in my life. They changed me, overwhelmingly for the better, and I'm glad I did what I did.

Would I go again? Tough call. Emotionally, I would be on the next thing smoking if I had the opportunity. Logically, I'm in the middle of something really important in my career that I can't just abandon to run (again) to the sound of the guns. My wife would take some convincing too, but even she has come to recognize that I have a bit of warrior in the blood and it needs an outlet.

-- Guardian

Anonymous said...

I've always been curious as to why there are any Navy people at all, save for Marine Corps medics (and SEALs), in Afghanistan. The article epilogue says he is helping to train the Afghan National Army - I guess he would have to, since there is no Afghan National Navy.

Matt Purvis said...

I met a crew of Navy EOD folks in at Talil AB in Iraq. One can come up with all sorts of reasons to have Navy personnel in Afghanistan. Logistics, EOD, security forces, medics/doctors, communications specialists, intelligence specialists, and the list goes on. You probably know, but the Navy does more than sail ships. There are lots of non-combat operations that can be carried out by Navy and Air Force personnel that free up soldiers and marines to do some butt kicking.

Brant said...

Matt, all true. But remember that Trainman is a Canuckian, and they're not exactly 100% sure what a Navy is much less know what to do with one!


Anonymous said...

Navy SeeBee's are everywhere especially in the secret squirrel compounds.

I went (well I was mobilized my first time then volunteered the last three) for "3) Adventure and excitement." I wanted to be part of something I had wargamed and read about in the history books.

Matt Purvis said...

I won't hold that against him then.