This is from a blog post from a french infantry unit stationed with a US unit in Afghanistan. I’ve translated it for the benefit of those who don’t speak French (and as an exercise for my own language skills – it’s been a while!)
TO OUR AMERICAN BROTHERS IN ARMS
For some time now we’ve been sharing our lives with two units, the first and the fourth company of a prestigious American infantry battalion which shall remain unnamed due to military secrecy. To the average person, it’s a unit just like any another. For those of us who live with them and have gotten to know them, we know now that we have had the honor to live alongside two of the most famous units of the U.S. Army. Units that were presented to the world in a series of films about “Ordinary men. Extraordinary times.“
Who are these soldiers from across the Atlantic, what are their daily lives and what support they provide daily to the men of OMLT? Few of them belong to Easy Company, the company that is the focus of the television series. It is now known as ECHO Company, and has become a support and logistics company.
A distinct accent. They are American. Not to say that they do not speak English. How many times did I need to write down what I tell them rather than lose precious minutes trying several pronunciations for a word seemed trivial? Whatever the state they’re from, each has its own accent, and even they admit that in some situations they have trouble understanding themselves.
Norman cabinets (Note: I’m not familiar with this particular idiom, but I’d take it to be roughly analogous to “built like a fridge”). Raised from an early age on Gatorade, protein and creatine, they are all two heads above us and their muscles remind one of Rambo in his finest hours. So not only do we already have this handicap that amuses them so, but we are often confused with the native Afghans: We’re but small fry, even for the beefiest among us.
Core values. Here one discovers America, as it often is depicted: the values they have here are brought to a climax, amplified by closeness and loneliness of the post in the middle of this Afghan valley. Honor, Patriotism. Everything here is a reminder: the American flag flapping the wind above the outpost just as it’s depicted on the care packages. If recruitment is often at the heart of the American inner city, dominated by gangs, nobody here has any other purpose than to carry high and proud the star-spangled banner. Each one knows they are supported by an entire nation, which does them well by anonymously sending them everything a soldier could find in short supply at the front: books, chewing gum, razor blades, powdered drinks (Gatorade, of course!), Toothpaste and so on. So much so that everyone knows he is supported in the difficult mission he is assigned. This is the first clash with preconceived notions: the American soldier is not an individual. The team, group, and the battle are at the center of all of his attention.
And what soldiers! We haven’t encountered a bad one. It’s strange how critical we can be! Even if some of them appear a little pudgy, they all give us lessons on daily life in the infantry. Beyond the wearing of the battle dress which seems to never bother them, (helmet, goggles combat rifle) long hours of guard duty at the outpost does not seem to bother them too much. The sole presence is a one square meter platform on a wooden tower above the stockade walls for 5 consecutive hours with night-vision binoculars, always focused on the direction from where the danger might come. No distractions, no breaks, standing like real statues. Ditto for the outpost as soon as night falls. All movement is in the dark with only a few red lights indicate the presence here and there of a soldier on the road. Ditto for vehicles whose lights are blacked out. Everything is done in the dark, fully understood at the JAPY pump. And in combat? If you saw RAMBO you’ve seen everything: always there to come to the rescue when one of our teams is in trouble, and always in a very short time. It’s one of their secrets: they can go from casual t-shirts to full battle dress in three minutes flat. When they arrive near the enemy position their mode of action is simple and confusing: they charge! Experts at the assault landing, they shoot first and ask questions later, which puts a damper on procrastination.
Here, seldom with raised voices and from 0500 the common tasks are done in short order and never grudgingly. In short, what we have been able to see, the helicopter en route, stopping next to a broken-down vehicle to see if all is well in the combat sections who stand in support of us even before knowing whether the mission is perilous, the American soldier is a fine soldier, a worthy heir of those who liberated France and Europe.
For those who do us the honor to welcome us into their combat outposts and every day demonstrate the finest qualities of military, for those who feel every day the heavy deployment of the U.S. Army on Afghan soil, for all those we owe this article, hoping to never discredit them and to continue to hear that we are all the same “band of brothers.”