What I Learned Fighting In Afghanistan

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With the international combat mission in Afghanistan “officially” concluded, the debate over what the American military and its allies accomplished in the so-called “Graveyard of Empires” has begun in earnest. From the IED-infested grape fields of Kandahar to the treacherous valleys of Kunar Province, the Armed Forces were forced to evolve significantly over the past 13 years as the coalition struggled to deter an entrenched and agile enemy on a battlefield too complicated to parse. But, bigger picture aside, those of us who served in Afghanistan learned a lot of lessons on the ground. We'll benefit from elements of that education for the rest of our lives, but not all lesson are broadly applicable.

In a toast to the end of the longest war in American history, here’s a list of 11 key lessons I learned in Afghanistan that are now (hopefully) safe to forget. 

Baby Wipes Aren’t Just for Babies

Because going a month without a shower is no excuse to make the other soldiers in your platoon constantly suffer the awful aroma of your moldy balls.

C-4 Is Your Best Friend

Because whether you need to level a compound, erase a tree line, or heat up your morning coffee, C-4 is the tool for the job.

Avoid ANA Soldiers With RPGs

Few things are more effective on the battlefield than an Afghan soldier with an RPG, but if you think he’s going to check his back blast area before he fires that thing off, you’re in for a very painful - and potentially lethal - surprise.

“Afghan Dip” Is Not Chewing Tobacco

It’s opium, dummy. When you run out of Grizzly, do yourself a favor and just wait for the next shipment to come in.

Falling Asleep on Your Feet Hurts

Pulling a four hour shift in the guard tower between patrols sucks, big time, but not as much as waking up on the tower floor with a bloody nose.

Not All Care Packages Are Packaged With Care

What the fuck are we going to do with three pounds of jolly ranchers?

Imagination Is a Drug

Simplistic as it sounds, the key to getting through a grueling 12-month deployment is thinking about all of the ways your going to get laid or drunk when you get home.

Nature Is Not Your Ally

Monkeys, mountain lions, wild dogs, bed bugs, ticks, rain, snow, heat - they’re all out to make your life a living hell.

Don't Visit Empty Villages

Because civilians can smell an ambush or an IED from a mile away.

The Taliban Is in the Next Village Over

Because the locals have never heard of the Taliban, but the folks who live on the other side of that opium field probably have.

10 Rip-Its a Day Keep the Sandman Away

The key to being an effective soldier is inundating your brain - and your kidneys - with copious amounts of caffeine, taurine and ginseng.