The option to quit

Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey -- There’s my little superhero. Right now, he doesn’t know how to “quit,” but I suspect as he gets older and faces more challenges, he’ll be tempted.  I’ll try to stave that off for as long as I can.

Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey —
There’s my little superhero. Right now, he doesn’t know how to “quit,” but I suspect as he gets older and faces more challenges, he’ll be tempted. I’ll try to stave that off for as long as I can.

Children don’t know what “quit” means … until adults teach ‘em.
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Although the media focuses primarily on the military and its role in the ‘stan, there are lots of other agencies working in the country.

There are civilians that don’t wear uniforms … diplomats, contractors, and other government employees.

There are also non-governmental organizations (NGOs.) These are people that want to help the situation, but don’t have any formal government affiliation. The Red Cross and the World Health Organization are examples of this type.

You know that military people who serve do so voluntarily, but you may not know that their “volunteer” status ends once a person signs on the dotted line. If a person signs up to join the enlisted ranks of the military, they “volunteer” themselves into a contract, from which, they are not able to release themselves until it expires. (Sort of like a cell phone commitment.)

Unlike enlisted troops, commissioned officers (like me) do have the option to resign our commissions (quit) after a certain time. But we cannot do so while serving in a combat zone, and, if we do so, we forfeit all expected benefits/allowances/seniority, etc.

So, basically, military members can’t simply “quit.”

But, civilians can.

Today I discovered that some civilians I knew, who were working in the ‘stan before, have since left Afghanistan. I don’t know the circumstances under which they left, so I won’t speculate on their individual cases. I won’t say that they simply “quit.”

But, I will say that our team has had a high turnover rate with civilians that have joined us since we started training together at Camp Atterbury. For whatever reason, it appears that they don’t stay with us too long. I can only assume that their decision to leave was based, in part, on the fact that their individual situations allowed them to leave.

Sure, they may call it a different name, like “an unexpected promotion,” or a “last-minute reassignment.” But, to the average young Soldier or Airman, who is working tirelessly in the ‘stan while seeing new civilians rotate in and out of the team continuously, that civilian is not a person that can be depended on. So, in typical military fashion, the military defaults to depending on the military alone to get things done.

I worry about how this will affect our efforts in the ‘stan, long-term. If we’re really sticking to the plan, then one day we can expect that us uniform-wearers will reduce our numbers, and a massive force of civilian diplomats, teachers, and mentors will replace us to help build up the country.

To be fair, there are LOTS of civilians who have and are serving in the ‘stan for a lot longer than my tour here. I salute them, because they (unlike me,) have the option to “quit,” yet they choose to stay.

A person would be naive if they thought that every military member in the ‘stan wanted to be here. I would much rather be home … No secret there. But I can’t. I signed up to do a job in exchange for the pay & benefits the military provides. So I try to do my job, until such time that job is finished.

Military members don’t have the option to simply “quit.”

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