There was a lot of good-natured ribbing about the improbability of Army units designated as Space Support Teams. That certainly sounds more like an Air Force responsibility. Whatever it is these Colorado national guardsmen will be doing in Kandahar, and it is definitely top secret, each team includes a computer/IT specialist. Their war seems likely to be waged in front of a bank of computer screens. I suspect the recent articles in the national press about camera drones the size of humming birds and satellite surveillance of the Afghan landscape is linked to their assignment. I overheard a soldier talking about the fact that it requires 30 minutes to plant an improvised explosive device (IED). Consequently, he went on to say, we have to scan Afghan roadsides every 20 minutes. It’s a little mind boggling that a virtually medieval opponent is being countered with technologies at the cutting edge of modern surveillance capabilities.
Governor John Hickenlooper had approved a promotion to the rank of Major for my brother-in-law, which was awarded to him at the deployment ceremony. The room was filled with family members, friends and about a hundred regular Army troops from the Space and Missile Defense Command. I was reminded of Philip Caputo’s Viet Nam memoir, “A Rumor of War.” His title said it all. Until a member of your family is deployed, how many Americans actually take the time to consider the risks and sacrifices their fellow citizens are taking every day, on the other side of the planet, to keep our nation safe?
As I watched the July 4th fireworks this past weekend, I couldn’t help thinking about the Colorado soldiers who were just touching down on a runway in Kuwait. By the time this article appears, they will have moved on to their “Kandaminiums” (converted truck bodies that serve as barracks) at Marine Corps HQ in Helmand province, where it was a searing 125 degrees last week. Aside from their extended families, who will worry about these warriors during the next year? Who will appreciate their sacrifices and pray for their safe return? Not enough of us, I suspect.
Over the weekend the New York Times reported that Afghans were protesting Taliban rocketing of their villages from sanctuaries in Pakistan. For nearly a decade, we have poured billions of dollars into Pakistan in hopes of containing terrorism originating in Afghanistan. Now we appear ready to spend billions more in Afghanistan in order to keep an eye on Pakistan. There should be little wonder that Americans are confused about this conflict. As we sang the Army song, tears rolled freely down more than one face. We knew these Coloradans would do their very best to protect our Marines in the year ahead. Godspeed Major Verser, we’ll be waiting for you when you return!
Miller Hudson is a longtime political observer in Colorado.