Soldiers practice Pashto, protect the people
April 21, 2011
- 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment
- Vilseck, Germany
- Kandahar Airfield
- speaking Pashto
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Language barriers can make it difficult for units deployed to Afghanistan, but one unit is fighting against that barrier by using the local language and achieving positive results in the process.
Pashto is the main language spoken by villagers in southern Afghanistan and that is why most of the Soldiers of 3rd Platoon, Mad Dog Troop, 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, have taken it upon themselves to learn a basic form of the language during their deployment, said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Dustin L. Carroll, the unit's platoon sergeant.
"When you use their language, it shows you accept them," said Carroll, a Forest City, N.C., native. "It breaks that ice. You throw it out there and usually they're more receptive."
One of the main benefits of speaking Pashto is the ability to connect with the Afghan people directly, said U.S. Army Sgt. John M. Davis, a team leader for 3rd Platoon, Mad Dog Troop, 4th Squadron, 2SCR.
He can be seen on patrol speaking Pashto to just about everyone he comes into contact with.
"We're out there, we're talking to the people and they know who we are," said Davis, a Pocatello, Idaho, native. "We're trying to get on a personal level with them, as well as a professional level."
Learning personal details about people in the area not only helps with security, but it can also lead to some very interesting stories, said U.S. Army Spc. Andrew L. Shely, cavalry scout for 3rd Platoon, Mad Dog Troop, 4th Squadron, 2SCR.
"When I first got here I was extremely excited," said Shely, an undergrad history student. "Afghanistan has thousands of years of experience and I get to experience that first hand, I actually get to step inside the history book and experience it myself."
Davis said in Afghanistan history is primarily passed down by word of mouth. The village elders are generally the keepers of the local history and whenever he gets a chance he tries to talk to them and listen to their stories.
During one patrol, late at night, Davis and his platoon walked past an old gentleman sitting outside his house. He stopped and after exchanging a few words in Pashto with the man, found himself invited into the gentleman's house.
"We go into this place and he has pictures over the last 200 years," said Davis. "All these amazing things that's happened in Afghanistan from way back when. It was just massive amounts of history and we never would have seen this if we never stopped and talked to this old guy."
Shely, a Jamestown, N.Y., native, said he will remember experiences like this for a lifetime. Being able to speak to them in Pashto and hear the history from the people first-hand are truly amazing experiences.
"No monetary value even comes close to buying what I have right now," he said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."