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‘I Serve Afghanistan!’: Afghan Soldiers Graduate To The Elite Ranks Of Special Forces
Editor’s note: This is a dispatch by T&P; correspondent Marty Skovlund Jr. who is reporting on the ground from Afghanistan.
As we descended into Camp Julien, the mountains towered above us, the city sprawled below us, and the bombed-out, yet still beautiful Darul Aman Palace sat perched on a hill level with us. We were heading to the graduation of Class 19 from the Afghan Special Forces Qualification Course, and the view of Kabul from the Black Hawk helicopter was one of the best I had seen so far.
After a brief brownout, we disembarked the aircraft and were escorted into a camp much more spartan than almost any other I had been to in this country. It was once home to a significantly larger population of about 4,000 multinational soldiers in the earlier years of the war, but has since shut down and re-opened multiple times in response to varying troop levels. Now it’s home to a modest U.S. Special Forces element tasked with assisting the Afghans in running special operations training. The chow hall was a small tent with just a few tables, and the metal gates creaked at the slightest movement. The once-bustling camp now sat eerily quiet.
An Afghan special forces soldier receives his certificate of graduation for completing the Special Forces Qualification Course. Upon receipt, he about-faces toward his peers and shouts, "I serve Afghanistan!", Nov 8. 2017.T&P; photo by Marty Skovlund Jr.
After a short stop for coffee inside the chow tent, we headed over with a bevy of high-ranking U.S. service members who flew in for the graduation. Every class of Afghan special operators that graduates the qualification course is a sign of hope for the U.S. operation in the fight against violent extremists — and this occasion was no exception.
We walked into the graduation ceremony and were greeted by the sight of over 114 soon-to-be Afghan special forces soldiers. They looked the part too; these men were hard and held themselves with the confidence that you would expect of soldiers of their caliber. It's required that these soldiers serve a minimum of three years in one of the elite commando units before they can even apply for special forces. During the ceremony, some of the soldiers were called to the front of the room to receive their completion certificates. They each faced their fellow graduates and shouted, “I serve Afghanistan,” proudly displaying the flimsy piece of paper to the room. I was told it was the soldiers’ idea to say this — not a standard part of the ceremony. They wanted to be seen as warriors for their country. Those sitting cheered enthusiastically; this was an exciting moment for everyone.
An Afghan special forces soldier sits with his son at a graduation ceremony, Nov. 8, 2017.T&P; photo by Marty Skovlund Jr.
One of the brand new Afghan special forces soldiers was sitting next to his young son, who was dressed in a mini-military uniform. A few soldiers gushed over the heartwarming duo as the father gave the boy his tan beret to wear. I watched the boy don the beret, carefully adjusting it as if he had gone through the rigorous training required to earn it himself. His dad swelled with pride, and a lump formed in my throat. It reminded me of when I would dig out my own dad's military uniforms to wear as a kid.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.
In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.
A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.
Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.
So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.
R. Lee Ermey was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
Best known for his iconic role as the Marine Corps drill instructor Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the war drama Full Metal Jacket, Ermey died April 15, 2018 at age 74 due to complications from pneumonia, Task & Purpose previously reported.