Hardin County is filled with veterans and military families from various wars and conflicts.
Some have served in Afghanistan’s long war and have seen it end with a troop withdrawal, Taliban takeover and evacuations in recent weeks.
1st retired army sergeant. Tony Ringle, from Elizabethtown, has deployed to Afghanistan twice – 2010-2011 at Forward Operating Base Finley-Shields in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province and 2012-2013 at Forward Operating Base Connolly in Khogyani District, Nangarhar Province.
Ringle said U.S. and coalition troops must be pulled out, but said the timing was not right.
“The Afghan government is still too dependent on our aid and that of our allies,” he said.
He said Afghanistan is not like Germany and Korea, places where the United States has maintained a presence after the conflict.
“Afghanistan is old, old even,” he said. “They have tribal hierarchies which supersede any social or cultural status.”
And in many places across the country, they are far removed from modern lifestyles and technologies, he said.
He said anyone who has spent time in Afghanistan would not be surprised by the Taliban takeover. But, he didn’t expect it to be quick and decisive.
“I thought the ANA would take a much more provocative stance, but thinking back to the many exchanges of fire with my Afghan counterparts who were always reserved in their decisions and actions, I can see how it went,” a- he declared. “That doesn’t mean there aren’t brave warriors in Afghanistan, some of the leaders I worked with were former Mujahedin fighters against the Soviet Union and Al Qaeda and I was happy to fight alongside them. “
In Afghanistan, Ringle mentored six Afghan National Army commanders and first sergeants and trained more than 200 ANA soldiers in routine soldier duties and vehicle maintenance.
He said the evacuation was flawed because the Americans in the country had not been withdrawn before the troops. And the United States has let down the Afghan partners and interpreters who have helped “immeasurably”.
“Aside from the obvious communication void that they filled, our interpreters provided security for us,” he said.
They also helped provide cultural education for American soldiers there, he said.
“Our interpreters braved the battlefield alongside us, helped treat our wounded and defended us in public,” Ringle said. “They did all of this because they love their country and see the possibility of prosperity in the American ideals that we have tried to give to their people.”
And he said they did so despite the danger to themselves and their families, including constant death threats.
“We failed to plan ahead and reward these brave Afghans with visa documents in advance,” he said. “They earned it, trust me.”
He said the whole war had not been in vain.
When he first heard the news, his first thought was “billions of dollars spent and nothing to show for it.”
But that was forgetting the schools, mosques, wells, roads, hospitals and orphanages built to help improve their communities and their quality of life, he said.
When he started hearing people say that the soldiers died in vain, he thought about it and realized that it was not.
“No soldier who died in Afghanistan has died in vain and the reason is simple,” he said. “They died protecting their siblings, and it will never be in vain. “
He said that when a soldier goes to fight, it is not part of a political agenda or a leader tells them to.
“It is because we are fighting for each other while we are deployed,” he said. “We are fighting to defeat the enemy so that we can get home safely.”
They are dead, he said, so others don’t have to.
“There is love, devotion and honor in their death,” he said.
The Rineyville Pitcher family have a long history of military service. Most recently, Randy and Vicki Pitcher’s two sons, Army Specialist Justin and Second Lieutenant Joshua, served in Afghanistan.
Justin served from 2012 to 2013 in Afghanistan and Joshua served in Kandahar for six months in 2012 until he was injured in an IED explosion that required him to amputate his left leg below the knee and carry now a prosthetic leg. Despite this, he returned to serve in Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014 in Maser e Sharif, Kunduz and in 2018 in Mosul, Tal Afar.
Vicki said she is sad to see what happened.
“Right now I’m just crazy,” she said, adding that she blamed the government for the way things were run in Afghanistan.
She said she “felt sick to her stomach” and had felt nauseous since the death of 13 soldiers in an explosion at Kabul airport on August 26.
“I feel like the Americans have forgotten that these soldiers have been fighting for years and that their deployment was not just for training,” she said. “My two sons suffer from PTSD and it hurts to see how much it has destroyed parts of their lives.”
Randy said the war started 20 years ago in hopes of ridding Afghanistan of the terrorist responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“I believe the US government and NATO supported the idea that if they could build and supply an Afghan army they would be able to defend themselves,” he said. “After two decades of continued commitment to support the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, I agreed with President Biden that we do not need our future generations in Afghanistan.”
He said billions of dollars had been spent on arming, training and equipping Afghan forces and they had failed to unite to defend their country.
“The expected resistance of the Afghan National Army did not materialize and, as a result, the planned withdrawal became an international crisis as the Taliban moved closer to the capital Kabul,” he said.
The result, he said, was a number of US citizens trapped in Afghanistan and thousands of other Afghans who facilitated the military and government mission who are now under serious threat from the Taliban.
“My heart breaks for all the sacrifices of our military and for the frustrations and grief of the families of the deceased and injured,” he said.
Retired Lt. Col. Terry Owens, who is also a Radcliff city councilor, said these types of operations are not straightforward.
She was posted to the 30th Medial Command as Deputy Chief of Staff in Germany from 2009 to 2011. One year of this tour was a deployment to Afghanistan.
“Our mission was to establish a US presence of health care operations for the entire area of operations in Afghanistan and in alignment with NATO medical forces,” she said.
Major General John McDonald took command of US forces in Afghanistan in Kabul and she served in her cell as a surgeon in Kabul, but moved throughout the region to Kandahar, Bagram and Parwan Valley, Kabul and the KIA airport, Jalalabad and Asadabad.
She earned a combat action badge after being enlisted in Asadabad and had a 30-year career in the military.
“My understanding and experience from then and now is that non-combatant evacuation operations are an emotional and complicated process,” she said. “A successful mission can depend on a myriad of diplomatic, coordination and timing considerations. “
She said there are those who believe they can do better with predictable positive results in a timely manner. But it is not that simple.
In this type of emergency and evacuation planning, the gravity may be beyond the understanding or experience of those who were not involved in this type of operation, she said.
“Essentially, the desired end state requires joint support elements and prioritization of different types of evacuees while operating amid a variety of threats and chaos,” she said. “It requires clear intelligence preparations in an unpredictable operating environment. “
When American troops are withdrawn, various authorities intervene in this decision, such as the commander of the geographic fighter, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and ultimately the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. United States, she said. .
“The response to a threat and occupation of an operational area rarely proceeds on a schedule and often the objectives and goals change depending on the political environment, available resources and the will of the people of the area. support, ”she said. “Those authority figures who trigger or respond to threats or conflict may not be the ones who receive praise or criticism when it’s time to complete the mission. Therefore, not everyone will be happy with the result. “
In this regard, she said she supports the president and those who advise the administration.
“My prayers are with those who must make these difficult decisions,” she said. “I pray for my fellow soldiers and their family members and God bless them all for what they are doing.”