An Interview With Female ANA soldiers

Two female ANA Captains pose with their military uniform, but seldom wear it.

No Tom Foolery here!  It was one more thing I could cross off “My Things to Do” list.  Today I had a unique opportunity to interview two female ANA officers.  Judging by their attire they were wearing, you would easily mistake them for a housewife or local citizen and never know they were proud officers serving in the Afghan National Army.

After our morning meeting, I loaded up several boxes of humanitarian assistance to include hygiene items, clothing, candy, stationary, and Beanie Babies.  I borrowed an interpreter and we drove to ANA land with the supplies.  My plan was to restock the family support center with these items.  They give these items to ANA widows and wounded soldier families.  I did this on a previous occasion and since have depleted their stock.

Breakfast with the garrison Religious officer.

The ANA Garrison Religious officer invited me into his office and the Assistant Religious Officer was preparing breakfast.  This is rather unusual because most men do not cook in Afghanistan.  Instead they relinquish this duty to their wife or older children.  So when the assistant put his homemade cooking in front of me, I was a bit envious because I miss cooking.  He mixed up some sort of egg mixture that was contained chopped up tomatoes, onions, and peppers in it.  I’m unsure of what spice he used, but it was rather tasty.  To wash it down, we had our customary cup of tea too.  In addition, it was accompanied by some warm flats of Naan bread which we tore apart in pieces and dipped into the egg concoction since there were no utensils.  I tried to avoid the peppers because they were a bit too spicy for me.

Bilingual sign about praying.

The officers thanked me for the humanitarian supplies and I left their office to visit with the women who run the ANA Family Support Center.  While walking to their office, I stopped by the literacy classroom and noticed they still haven’t relocated it.  I took some pictures of the bi-lingual signs posted on the outside door of the classroom.  I didn’t have the heart to tell them that “preyer” should be spelled as prayer.

My next stop was the ANA Family Support Center.  Inside I was greeted by two women dressed in traditional Afghan clothing, complete with the hajib hair covering.  But these two women are not civilians; instead, they are both Captains in the ANA army.  Using my interpreter, I asked permission to conduct an interview so I could learn more about them.  They agreed and I used my tape recorder to record our conversation.

Both of the women are married, have 4 children and similar educational backgrounds with completing high school and 3 years of medical studies at a local college.  The younger Captain has served in the Army for 20 years and the other 33 years respectively.  They are responsible for assisting ANA widows and wounded soldiers’ family members.  The younger captain revealed even as a child, she has always wanted to join the Army.  Her father was an Army officer and supported her dream and now her sister is in the process of becoming an ANA officer too.

I inquired why they didn’t wear the ANA military uniform.  They explained that due to culture perceptions and criticisms, it is better to wear civilian clothes.  The uneducated soldiers call them bad names and do not respect their rank.  They feel women should not be in the ANA and should be home cleaning and taking care of the children.  The younger captain is married to an ANP officer and he supports her serving in the ANA along with educated soldiers and officers.  The older captain had a much different story.  After she got married, her husband did not want her working for the Army.  Subsequently after 4 years of marriage, he left and disappeared in Iran never to be seen again.  Since then, she has been raising 4 children on her own.  The officers also explained the only time they wear their military uniform is when a high ranking delegation or VIP is visiting.  So they keep their uniforms locked up in their lockers for these rare occasions.

We discussed other issues to include the benefits of having coalition forces in their country and delved into the rampant corruption festering in their society to include the central government, ANA, and ANP.  I fear if the corruption is not controlled, this will become the downfall of Afghanistan.

Education was another topic we discussed and we mutually agreed that education is one of the keys to success in Afghanistan.    According to one of the captains, “Without education, the illiterate become rapists, murders, and thieves.”  The older captain also pointed out, “What Afghanistan needs are jobs.  The government should build factories and employ people.”  Instead, she said, “The government only thinks about their pockets and not the people.”

The female captains permitted me to take one picture of them holding up their uniform shirt.  They also thanked me for delivering the humanitarian supplies.  But when I said my goodbye and extended my hand to thank them for their time, they did not extend the courtesy.  I fear this may have been a faux-pa on my part and they reacted in the same manner as the Muslim schoolgirls I visited a few days ago.  But I respect their culture and returned to camp.

****

Wedding picture in a combat zone in Afghanistan.

HAPPY 4TH ANNIVERSARY TO MY LOVING WIFE!   Due to poor connectivity, I was unable to post anything commemorating our wedding anniversary.  I was trying to think of something original and the ideas I had didn’t materialize.  In our 4 years of marriage, we have only been able to celebrate our first year, because military duty has kept us apart for the other 3 years.  So on the surface; I have a pretty bad track record of 25% being present for our anniversary.  Even if I don’t miss another celebration for the next 26 years, I will still be at 90%.  Unfortunately, this is one of the sacrifices a military family makes.  But since I am retiring soon, I will have the rest of my life to make it up to her.

For inquiring minds, this deployment

C-wire at camp.

has actually strengthened our marriage and I have gained a new respect for my wife.  We had a strong marital foundation before I departed and since then, we have reinforced it and built upon it.  I attribute this to open communication and the sharing of similar beliefs, goals, and aspirations.  This deployment has been the

My wall collection of items sent to me by my loving wife.

greatest challenge of my 27 year career, but knowing I had a loving wife who supported me helped to minimize the stressors of being in a combat zone.

Sure it might be argued I was the one exposed to the dangerous perils of IEDs, rockets, mortars, RPGs, gunfire, and attempted ambushes, but I still think the military spouse has the hardest job.  Uncle “Sugar” took care of my basic needs and provided shelter, food, uniforms, etc.  But my wife had to provide for her and 2 needy dogs.   I am fortunate to have a strong and independent wife who took care of the house, finances, automobiles, and our 2 furry children, (Charlie and Sam).  Knowing these matters were being cared for alleviated my worries and I could stay focused on my missions.

There wasn’t a day that passed that I didn’t think about my beautiful and caring wife.  Our wedding picture reminded me daily of my soul mate I left behind.  What I tried to depict in the photograph is that war is keeping me from my loved ones.  This is just another intangible sacrifice that only a military person can understand.    Honey, you are the best wife in the world and in a few weeks, we will resume where we left off!  I miss you and the boyz terribly, but soon it will all be over.  You are the best!!!

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3 Responses

  1. Happy Anniversary Senior!

  2. Americans so easily and quickly extend their hands in greetings and it seems strange that others don’t follow; but, different customs are indeed different. Lucky you to have the chance to talk to these women.

    Congratulations on your anniversary!

  3. […] at Afghanistan: My Last Tour conducted an interview with female ANA soldiers, which I thought was generally awesome, but also deeply informative. My next stop was the ANA […]

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