Small Wars Journal

Dispatch: Village Boys

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Dispatch: Village Boys

by Michael Yon

Download the full article: Dispatch: Village Boys

Easter Sunday, 2010

Anywhere, Afghanistan

Back in December, C-Co 1-17th Infantry battalion had been in about the worst place in Afghanistan. There is stiff competition for the position of actual worst place, and I am sure there are many contenders that remain unknown, but the Arghandab was one of them. The battalion had lost more than twenty soldiers, and C-co alone had lost 12 with more wounded. In December 2009, C-Co was moved north into Shah Wali Kot and has been running missions here for more than three months. I've only been at Shaw Wali Kot for a week.

Charlie Company headed on a mission to visit villages that had seen no formal western guests for at least the past five years, according Company Commander Max Hanlin. The soldiers drove to an area maybe two kilometers from the first village, parked, and walked in. The surrounding desert was so dry that only the hardy and small plants survived—often with thorns, and probably foul-tasting (and poisonous). How else can a plant expect to survive when the favorite Afghan meat is mutton, and foraging isn't easy for the lambs? There was the occasional brown lizard or grasshopper, but on the whole it's simply rocky desert. The place is barren but not entirely lifeless.

Charlie Company was heading into the Baghtu Valley. The general area is said to be among the most religiously conservative in Afghanistan, meaning soldiers were unlikely to stumble across any undiscovered steeples, stupas or synagogues.

Some Charlie Company soldiers are multi-tour combat veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq. Captain Max Hanlin, the Charlie Company Commander, is on his sixth combat tour. Captain Hanlin explained how Dutch convoys had been hit near the Baghtu Valley and how fights had raged. Captain Hanlin said the four villages we were to visit are a black hole. We know where they are, their names, and little more.

We knew nothing, really, about the villages ahead. We didn't know whether they are friendly, enemy or neutral. In fact, the villages could be in another category: beyond neutral. Just out of it, living in a knowledge vacuum, maybe hoping not to be dragged into a fight. That would describe much of Afghanistan.

Download the full article: Dispatch: Village Boys

Michael Yon is a former Green Beret who has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004. No other reporter has spent as much time with combat troops in these two wars. Michael's dispatches from the frontlines have earned him the reputation as the premier independent combat journalist of his generation. His work is published at Michael Yon Online and has been featured on Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, ABC, FOX, as well as hundreds of other major media outlets all around the world.

About the Author(s)

Michael Yon is a former Green Beret, native of Winter Haven, Fl. who has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.  No other reporter has spent as much time with combat troops in these two wars.  Michael’s dispatches from the frontlines have earned him the reputation as the premier independent combat journalist of his generation.  His work has been featured on “Good Morning America,” The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN, ABC, FOX, as well as hundreds of other major media outlets all around the world.