According to a recent article (http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,163432,00.html?ESRC=topstories.RSS), the cases of depression among troops in Afghanistan are on the rise. It is an interesting read because of the different reasons that Â“expertsÂ” claim could be the cause. Having lost a year of my life over there I think I can jump in and provide my Â“expertÂ” opinion. A couple of reasons that that article highlights are a sharp increase in combat and the remoteness could also be a cause, but I donÂ’t think it is because of the inability to get a mental health professional out to each FOB. How about the remoteness of being out with nothing more than a gun truck, one other American (maybe 2 if you are lucky) and 20-30 afghans that are as corrupt as they come. If you read any of the recent blogs on my website at www.bouhammer.com from Mike T and research back to some of mine when I was there you will find some striking similarities. Having incompetent people in high-ranking or leadership missions making decisions that could put a soldier and his teamÂ’s life at risk unnecessarily is a leading factor to depression if you ask me. American troops are awesome because they are more than willing to go into some distant land and look into the horrors of war, stare death down and take an enemy human life without remorse or hesitation. Yet, they will turn around and weep like a baby if an innocent child is being abused or gets hurt as a result of combat. Depression may also be on the rise there because of the repeated tours of troops and maybe their 3rd, 4th, or 5th tour that just happens to be in Afghanistan is just a bit much for them.
In recent articles in the Army Times and on some news sites you will see a distinct difference in opinion from American leadership in Afghanistan and NATO leadership. By NATO leadership, I mean the American General in charge of NATO forces. The Deputy Commander for Task Force-82, BG Votel, is making some seriously outrageous claims about how there will be no spring offensive and how he thinks the Taliban will be more focused on causing instability in Pakistan than causing problems for Coalition Forces this year. Now this is absolutely asinine and I am not sure what this guy is thinking unless he wants to somehow possibly put out the image that the 82nd Airborne has quelled the violence from their one year in country. That is about the only thing I can think he is trying to do. What he says goes in the face of what the facts say, what our government is saying and what the American General in charge of NATO and other NATO officials are saying.
We are days away from sending over a 3,200 man Marine unit to help with the hunting and killing. We have had the sharpest increase of winter-time violence these last few months than any winter since 2001. The General in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan is saying that until we deal with the opium production and the corruption that we will not succeed in Afghanistan, and there are others in NATO leadership that are saying this will end up being the worst year ever in the way of violence.
It is March, which means over the next few weeks the coochies will start migrating back into Afghanistan from Pakistan, and with them come rockets, munitions, and AQ fighters hiding among the coochies. It is about to get hot over there and by HOT, I donÂ’t mean temperature wise. The guys over there now know it is coming, people like Mike T are moving into new positions to get ready for this offensive that BG Votel claims is not coming. All of this is on my mind as many friends of mine and my very own son are very close to being over there themselves and being in the middle of it.
So why is there terrible depression in Afghanistan? Could it be because we donÂ’t have sufficient numbers of troops there to get the job done once and for all? Could it be because Task Force Phoenix (the element charged with the training and mentoring of the National Army and Police) is still understaffed and not taken seriously as a force multiplier? Maybe it is because there is no news coverage of Afghanistan, so when soldiers come home they hear things like Â“we are still in Afghanistan?Â” from civilians. Or is it because units of small size (companies down to 2 personnel in a HUMVEE) are hanging out in bad places by themselves, fending for themselves, and fighting for their lives, only to come back to a place like Baghram on a 1 day mission and hear some REMF (Definition – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=REMF) yell out to them that they are not allowed to wear the fleece cap or must have a reflective belt on in hours of darkness.
There are many indicators that are screaming out that we as a country better be ready for a bad year in Afghanistan, and maybe this news article is one of the last signsÂ…I donÂ’t know. What I do know is that someone better step up and fess up, and get the damn job done.