‘Return blaze on that position!” hollered Capt. Benjamin Tupper, over the abiding burst of Taliban AK-47s from a mud admixture 200 meters away. “We’re activity to abut them,” he shouted to a broadcast aggregation of ambushed soldiers hunkered bottomward in the alone awning they could find, baby able-bodied holes in the dry Afghanistan earth.
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Across an accessible gauntlet of aerial bullets, Tupper’s NCO, Cpl. Radoslaw “Ski” Polanski, was at the Humvee, wielding an M240 Bravo apparatus gun and befitting the Taliban at bay. For now. As continued as the ammo captivated out.
Capt. Tupper alone a few circuit from his M4 carbine and afresh hollered, “Return fire!”
His troops looked aback at him, a little dumbfounded.
That’s because best of them didn’t allege English. The company, associates of the Afghan National Army, or ANA, batten alone Dari or Pashto.
After a atrocious ataxia in a able-bodied aperture with a translator, the ANA’s top administrator assuredly yelled aback to the captain, “No, you get planes and helicopters! They can annihilate the enemy!”
Such is the ragged frontline anarchy and applesauce that ample the pages of Capt. Tupper’s new memoir, “Greetings from Afghanistan, Send Added Ammo.” For a year spanning 2006-07, he was an ETT (Embedded Training Team) leader, assigned to coach a 40-strong assemblage that couldn’t shoot straight.
Tupper and his machine-gunning accomplice Ski were in a dozen firefights with Taliban during their year in Afghanistan – a almost aerial cardinal – and in those vividly anecdotal life-and-death gun battles, they were not backed by a army of US soldiers with “high-tech commo, weapons, medical abilities and aborticide assets.” They were barreling forth IED-laden anchorage with no architect route-clearing teams. As aloof two US soldiers, they were actual low on the pecking adjustment for emergency air abutment or a quick acknowledgment force, acceptation Special Armament backup.
Yet Tupper and Ski were a antecedence ambition for Taliban fighters.
“The ETTs with their sole Humvee,” Tupper says, “were accepted to be the assumption centermost of the operation . . . and we were targeted accordingly.”
The ETT affairs in Afghanistan began a half-decade afore Tupper’s 2006 accession in country, its aim to acceleration up Afghan ability in logistics, approach and combined-arms fights adjoin insurgencies. In short, it’s “teach a man to fish” with advance rifles.
Amid the accepted troop billow beneath Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s leadership, the ETT affairs has been strengthened, with no beneath than three two-man Humvee teams per Afghan company. In Tupper’s time, with the US military’s assurance in Afghanistan back-burnered to the Iraq war, he was allotment of alone about 50 ETT teams – none afterpiece than a two hours abroad on frequently mined roads.
As a advance to “go native” as an ETT, Tupper got about aught accordant training. “We were experts at application our nuclear/chemical/biological apparel but clueless as to the language, ability and history of the Afghan people,” he says.
And so, Tupper active it.
In that aboriginal above ambush, with his ANA soldiers affianced bottomward and angled in able-bodied holes, Tupper ran the gantlet of bullets aback to his Humvee – alone to ascertain the radio was dead. Afterwards a near-miss from an RPG rocket, the bearings was dire. Again Tupper had an idea: his cellphone!
He exited the armored barter and below outside, absolutely apparent to adversary gunfire, to get accession and alarm headquarters. Afterwards captivation the Taliban at bay for two hours, the quick-response army assuredly accustomed in a row of Humvees.
The aboriginal man out was a able-bodied Special Armament major.
“Who the hell are you?” blurted out Tupper.
“I’m Above White with Task Force Paladin. What’s the bearings here?” he calmly responded.
“We’ve been surrounded.”
“Surrounded?” A attending of action rose on the major’s face. “I adulation actuality surrounded.”
IN May 2006, National Bouncer Capt. Tupper aboriginal set his boots on the arena in the Andar commune of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, in the southeastern allotment of the country forth the advanced ambit of mountains that anatomy the Pakistan bound and action ambuscade to Taliban advance squads.
In Andar, he begin an ANA aggregation of actual accommodating fighters – “like hunting dogs accessible for the chase” – who he bound accomplished were ill-prepared to booty on an ambiguous guerrilla force like the Taliban.
“The boilerplate AK-47 or any weapon they have,” Tupper told The Post aftermost anniversary from his home in upstate Syracuse, “was rusty, exhausted to crap, and corrective red, blooming or blue. ‘Jingling it up,’ they alarm it, like blinging it up. The weapons are inaccurate, the soldiers accept abhorrent marksmanship and they don’t appetite to train.”
Afghan soldiers chase a acceptance of “inshallah” – the will of God. “They appearance training contest as absurdity and a momentous decay of time,” Tupper writes. “In their minds, God rules the battlefield, not the soldiers and bullets. God determines if you survive combat, not training.”
To allurement them unwillingly into ambition practice, Tupper had to improvise. “We bribed their leaders with allowance and ends like printer cartridges, pens, and dry-erase boards, which they would accept if they delivered their soldiers.”
Another head-scratcher was seeing Afghan soldiers in accumulation cutting flip-flops instead of action boots, preferring their comfort. They “also abrasion do-rags, Arab-style arch scarves and baseball caps. Some of these guys attending like they aloof came off the set of ‘The Road Warrior.’ “
Nevertheless, on missions in the Andar district, Tupper makes bright that the ANA apparent abundant bravery. Driving in a dry brook one day, Tupper and Ski spotted “the appendage fin of a adhesive annular partially buried” and amidst by “recently abashed earth.” With those hallmarks of an IED, accepted action was to alarm in the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) aggregation to appear conciliate it. That, however, could booty hours, putting the assemblage at accident of ambush.
Minutes later, Tupper and Ski saw two ANA soldiers walking against them, one accustomed the adhesive round. “The two soldiers had absitively to alone draw it out of the arena to acceleration things along.” Luckily, the annular was a “rusted-out dud” acceptable active aback the Russian aggression in the 1980s. The abashed earth, they surmised, was from analytical goats nosing about at the spot.
Making it through Afghanistan had added to do with adjustment than training. One assignment in intelligence acquisition accomplished Tupper the ability of the Pop-Tart.
A day afterwards actuality accursed aloft by Taliban snipers, he was tasked with ascertaining their location. While apple elders are alert in allied with affiliation armament – “They don’t appetite to face reprisals aback the Taliban allotment afterwards in the day” – Tupper approached some accouchement while accustomed blueberry Pop-Tarts he’d arranged central the Humvee.
“I told them I’d accord the packet of Pop-Tarts to the aboriginal kid to acquaint me breadth the rockets came from,” Tupper writes. Afterwards that bulletin was translated, one adolescent boy acicular to a bouldered acropolis nearby, and the translator said, “The boy says he saw men barrage the rockets on the ancillary of that acropolis this morning. He wants his Pop-Tarts now.”
Detractors of US operations in Afghanistan point to the nation’s burst and affiliated history as impediment to any able centralized government. Tupper doesn’t absolutely disagree, cogent a adventure of a baseborn horse, and altercation tribes, about consistent in massacre.
Tensions flared aback the horse from a Cuchie association wandered into a adjacent Pashtun apple and was confiscated. Quarrel escalated to violence, and a baby Pashtun boy lay asleep from an aberrant bullet. Seeking vengeance, one of the Pashtun elders aria to Tupper, saying, “There are four hundred Taliban in the mountains abutting to our village. Help!”
With aurora abbreviating and black abatement a “Taliban” escape, the allurement to alarm in Air Force bombers grew. Tupper resisted, acquainted that rules of assurance defined that for an air strike, “We had to accept ‘eyes on’ our target.” No bombing was ordered, and no Cuchie association was eradicated due to a abnormality horse and the lies of the battling Pashtun.
BENJAMIN Tupper grew up the son of a analysis assistant at Syracuse University, encouraged to claiming accepted thinking. In aerial school, he was into jailbait bedrock and sported a Mohawk, broken adenoids and “Anarchy Now” T-shirts. As a political-science apprentice at the university and in the years afterward, he fabricated six trips to Nicaragua to beam for himself the battle amid the US-based Contras and the antipathetic Sandinista government.
Picture an army 20-year-old kid on bouncer patrols at agronomical collectives, accretion a Kalashnikov burglarize by day and acclimation a articulacy attack at night with the benighted campesinos.
“I became absorbed to the adrenaline blitz of active in a action zone,” Tupper told The Post. “Every additional of acrimonious a coffee bean and thinking, this could be the aftermost additional I’m alive. Knowing there’s an approaching blackmail of bodies out there aggravating to annihilate you. You get absorbed on the adrenaline.”
Tupper abutting the National Bouncer in 1993. And while 9/11 afflicted him deeply, Tupper’s accurate action to advance for account in Afghanistan came from a cruise there as a noncombatant in 2004.
“I was accepting banquet at a abode with three musicians alert to their belief about the Taliban breaking their easily or assault up their wives because they had hidden their instruments,” Tupper said. “Just accustomed bodies who banned to accord up their art afterwards Taliban thugs ordered them to stop. To the Taliban, there is alone prayer.
“I absitively again that I charge to appear aback and put my activity on the line. I volunteered because I knew that al Qaeda and the Taliban were adverse to all the attempt that I acquainted the US tries to promote. Namely, bodies accepting rights to participate in their society. For that reason, this is such a noble, blue-blooded war.”
Tupper additionally launched a altruistic aid project, accession blimp animals and winter accouterment for kids in his breadth of operations. In the weeks afore Christmas 2006, his billet was abounding with boxes of Teddy bears, blimp animals and Beanie Babies mailed from the States. For his efforts, his adolescent soldiers gave him the appellation Capt. Care Bear. Seeing the smiles on the faces of Afghani children, and their beholden parents, brought home a accuracy about humanity, the affiliation accomplishment and the aisle to success.
“Every allowance we duke out makes our job actuality safer,” Tupper writes. “Establishing a chargeless medical dispensary in the affection of every Taliban breadth would do added to win accepted abutment than any attendance convoying or action operation.”
The endgame for affiliation armament is to duke off the action to the Afghan army – about-face them into an able angry assemblage and accompany the Americans home. As ETT point man, Tupper’s mission was to acceleration the ANA’s development, but he admits that “Old habits and deficiencies die hard.”
Progress, he said, is abstinent in the alertness of Afghanis to assignment as one. “I saw absolute change in soldiers, who had for ancestors been absolute by association or ethnicity, alive calm for a peaceful, affiliated Afghanistan. That was inspiring.”
Yet capturing the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, Tupper believes, will ultimately prove added able and best abiding in accepting peace. “It is my assessment that this war cannot and will not be won militarily. That is not to say it shouldn’t be fought, because it should. But victory, about you ascertain it, will appear aback the Afghan government is able of accouterment aegis and some affinity of abundance and abundance for the people, not because we accept dead all the Taliban.”
Greetings from Afghanistan, Send Added Ammoby Benjamin TupperNew American Library
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