Women of the Military

Reflecting on the fall of Afghanistan

Episode Summary

Bonus episode: I wanted to highlight my thoughts of watching the Taliban take over Afghanistan. I debated back and forth on creating this episode and then had second thoughts after it was created if I should share these personal feelings. In the end, I decided it is important for others to hear veteran voices. So I'm sharing my reflection. Thanks for listening.

Episode Notes

Here is the blog that is what I based this episode on, click here

Join the conversation: 



Check out the full transcript here.  

Mentioned in this episode:

We are the Mighty blog: We Should have Listened

Dave Lee on Investing Reflection

The Spouse Angle: A combat veteran and a gold star spouse react to Afghanistan

Thank you to my Patreon Sponsor Col Level and above:
Kevin Barba, Adriana Keefe, Lorraine Diaz

Get Women of the Military podcast gear here!

Thank you Patreon members for your support. Become a Patreon member today! Click here.   

Episode Transcription

Amanda Huffman00:00

Welcome to this bonus episode of women on the military podcast. I know that I've never done this before, but I felt it was really important to do a quick update. And just me talking about my experience being a veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2010. So I wanted to do this episode, just to share my thoughts to provide encouragement for those who have questions. And just to remind people who need to talk to someone to reach out. And if you know, someone who deployed to Afghanistan, or served in the military, reach out to them, check in on them, make sure they're doing okay. And there's a lot of emotions within the veteran community this week. And so I just wanted to share a little bit of my thoughts, and hopefully open up the conversation to hear more thoughts from you. I share this episode on LinkedIn, and Facebook. So if you want to join the conversation, head over to my LinkedIn page or Facebook, and I'll put both of the links in the show notes so that you can get to them easily and just provide your thoughts and thanks so much for listening. You're listening to season three of the women on the military podcast. Here you will find the real stories of female service members. I'm Amanda Huffman, I am an Air Force veteran, military spouse and Mom, I created women of the military podcast in 2019. As a place to share the stories of female service members past and present, with the goal of finding the heart of the story while uncovering the triumphs and challenges women face while serving in the military. If you want to be encouraged by the stories of military women and be inspired to change the world. Keep tuned for this latest episode of women on the military. 20 years after being removed from power and a US led invasion, Taliban militants swept into Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Sunday facing little resistance from Afghan forces. On Monday afternoon, August 16. President Joe Biden addressed the nation I served in Afghanistan. And as I watched President Biden talk about the events that happened over the weekend. And the events leading up to the US withdrawing from the war. I keyed in on a portion of his speech where he talked about a key pivotal moment in the war that affected my life. Because my deployment was after the shift. I deployed to Afghanistan in 2010. When I arrived at my training in November of 2009, they kept focusing on this new buzzword of counter insurgency often referred to as coin and I learned all about what coin meant, and the theory behind it. But I didn't put all the dots together until Monday afternoon while listening to the president and realizing how important that shift was, when the war went from counterterrorism to counter insurgency. I think the biggest reason why this part of the speech stood out to me was because it was something that I hadn't really understood until that point, the war had changed from counterterrorism to counter insurgency. So when we were learning this new buzzword of counter insurgency, it wasn't a change of terminology. It was a change of everything and how we were fighting the war. But for some reason, I don't think the leadership did a good enough job of explaining how monumental this shift was in changing the war and how it changed our goals from when we first went into Afghanistan, to retaliate after September 11, to where we were today, and how it shifted in 2009. With the search, another big factor it made me think about was just how easily we could have decided as a nation to switch from counterterrorism. And instead of staying in Afghanistan and focusing on counterinsurgency for the next 12 or so years, we could have left then that would have changed my life completely had this political decision taken place. And it's really crazy to think about the war ending then and me not going to Afghanistan and having the life experience that changed my life in so many different ways. Another reason this might be so impactful to me is because September 11 happened my senior year of high school and my high school history teacher focused so much on the history of Vietnam and Korea and we go really deep into what going to war requires at a national level and the different levels of policy, and talked about the different safeguards that were supposed to prevent another Vietnam War from happening, maybe that was one of the many reasons the news of the Taliban taking over was so hard to hear. How was this happening? Didn't we have safeguards in place to prevent these things from happening, the war in Afghanistan was not supposed to be a repeat of history. And we had worked to make sure that would happen. But here still we are. As much as I struggled with my deployment, I never considered the fact that maybe America should not have shifted from whatever they were doing before this new war strategy of counterinsurgency took place. Somehow I missed what can now be clearly seen the safeguards in place to protect our military had somehow been bypassed by the government officials. And now in 2021, we watched the Taliban takeover weeks after the US pulled out, it's heartbreaking to watch, there's so many scenes that I've seen this past week that just bring me to tears, I even pulled out a book that we have remembering September 11. And it's also fresh, of watching what's happening in Afghanistan, and thinking about September 11, and how we ended up to be in Afghanistan in the first place. And it's just been a really hard week. And to think about the time, resources and energy that have gone into helping change the future of Afghanistan has been really hard to see it all crumble. So quickly. On Monday, I tried to put my thoughts together. And I ended up writing an article for we are the mighty that was published Tuesday morning, and I'll link to it in the show notes if you would like to see it. And well, I didn't really have a plan. When I started writing the article, I just wanted to get the thoughts out of my head and down on paper. That's what I do. I'm a writer. And so sometimes my thoughts in my head go on and on in my head, and they get kind of jumbled. And if I put my hands on the keyboard and start typing, I can get it out of my head and onto paper. And then I share it with the world. It took at least three different drafts of writing about my feelings where each story went in its own direction. But the first few weren't where I wanted to go. So I decided to start over. One thing that really surprised me in the final draft that came out. And it was another dress too. And maybe that was what I was trying to avoid in the first few drafts. But ultimately, that's where I kept coming to was the anger and frustration that came out with my words. To be honest, the hardest part about my deployment is all those hard things that I don't talk about. So I try and keep that part of my story hidden. I try to focus on the positives that came from serving overseas, and where it led me in my life today. Well, when I thought about what was happening in Afghanistan, and I thought about the things that we as a team tried to bring up to leadership as challenges we were facing on the ground in Afghanistan, that frustration that I've ignored so often came out again and again. So it's time to publish it and share it with the world. And then last night, one of the investment channels we follow on YouTube, came out with a video that I'll link to in the show notes, where he shared a personal story about his experience daily on investing is the name of his channel. And he shared the emotions that came out when he learned that his dad had escaped North Korea at the end of World War Two. This got him to think about how different his life had been had his dad not left North Korea, and how he wouldn't be doing what he's doing today had he stayed. He also had a unique perspective because he had gone to Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea. And while he had been there, he had talked to the people. And he did a great job of explaining the differences in culture, and how different American culture is from others. And while the media gives you a high level Americanized view of the experiences and emotions that happen in a warzone, what's happening on the ground, and when you talk to the people of Afghanistan, it's a very different situation. And that's something that I experienced when I was deployed to Afghanistan because I was on the ground on the front lines and meeting with the Afghan people. And what I had even learned in training didn't prepare me from the stories and experiences that I I dealt with while overseas. one specific example of a challenge that we faced among many is related to the fact that my degree is in civil engineering. And my job was to help reconstruct, or as I say, in a lot of interviews build from nothing, schools, roads, bridges, government buildings and other various construction projects. One of the big focuses of our team was to build two storey school houses, in villages that were lined with mud huts, and shacks, it was kind of ridiculous to be building two storey school houses among these mud huts. And even one school house that we were building was built behind the remains of what a previous prt had started to build a school with. And instead of tearing down the original schoolhouse, and starting over, they just built the schoolhouse right behind it, and left the old construction site there, I guess, to remind us of our failures. And this was something that really bothered me and the other engineer that I worked with. And we were really pushed to build more projects do more things. And it just didn't add up in our head that we should be building something like a two storey schoolhouse, when most of the village was mud huts, and essentially shacks that were put together, where there was no electricity, no running water, and the school houses all required there to be a generator and electricity. And this wasn't something that the people of Afghanistan in that area really understood or even knew how to use correctly and to maintain and don't even get me started on the word sustainability. And what that meant to Americans and how much trouble we had trying to explain that to the Afghan people that we were working with, I think they've really got to the essence of how different the American solution was to an Afghan problem. And it just makes me think of the example of trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn't work. It wasn't the right solution. And we can see how well it didn't work with the collapse of Afghanistan this past few weeks. And I think the thing that makes it the hardest Is that me and other members of my team realized it wasn't the right solution back in 2010. And we tried to bring up some of the challenges that we faced and how things weren't working. And instead of having leadership listen to us, they told us to just keep doing projects, there wasn't anything we could do to change the plans that the Capitol was giving us. And we just had to keep following orders. And that is probably the hardest part, among many other hard parts of my deployment is knowing that we saw a specific challenge that wasn't being considered by the military leadership at the time. I think a lot of military members are not surprised by the takeover, especially if they spent time off base and interacting with the people of Afghanistan. I'm not saying that makes it any easier to watch, it probably makes it even harder to watch, especially if we know people who are now targets of the new regime because they supported American troops over these past years. It does feel like we're abandoning them. But I also agree with President Biden that it wouldn't have worked had we stayed longer because I feel like in 2010, in my deployment, we saw a lot of the problems that were happening. Not that it makes it any easier to watch, especially if we know people over in Afghanistan who are now targets of the Taliban because they supported American troops. While we were there. I want to end by saying it's been a really hard week. And I'm still trying to wrap my mind about how to put all this into words. But this is where I am today. And I wanted to share my experience to help those who did not serve in Afghanistan to understand at least the take of one veteran and her experience in Afghanistan and what she's dealing with today. And I also wanted to do this episode to remind those of you who have served no matter what capacity it was in to reach out and talk to others if you need to. And if you know someone like I said in the beginning who served in Afghanistan, a simple text or Facebook message or phone call even have checking in on them to see if they're okay is much appreciated. I've had a number of people reach out to me this week, and comment on my various posts. And I really appreciate all the comments, all the texts, all the messages and for you listening now because this is part of how I'm reaching out and sharing and using my platform to help others as we deal with the challenges from this week. And I also want to mention that I was featured on the spouse angle this week, I did an interview with Natalie gross, the host on Monday, after she checked in on me, we decided to try and squeeze in a quick interview for her episode this week that she shifted towards Afghanistan. And so that is even more raw than this today. Because that was as I was in the middle of processing my feelings. And I feel like she asked really good questions, and I'm really grateful I had the opportunity to talk to her, even though it wasn't easy to do. So thanks so much for listening to this bonus episode. We'll be back on Tuesday like normal with a another podcast interview. My guest is an army Pathfinder and be ready to come back and check out her story. And don't forget if you have thoughts that you want to share or even a word of encouragement, go check out LinkedIn or Facebook and be part of the conversation. Have a great weekend. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of women of the military podcast. Do you love all things women in the military podcast become a subscriber so you never miss an episode and consider leaving a review. It really helps people find the podcast and helps the podcast to grow. Are you still listening? 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