What It’s Like To Be Drawn Down

A military officer serving in Afghanistan reports on how soldiers like him are experiencing the winding down of the war:

For the thousands of service members still working here, the realities of serving in a shrinking military resonate. Gone are the days of job stability as the effects of military drawdowns echo across the services. Like surplus gear, a couple services are getting rid of people too. In the past few weeks, the military has laid off some troops and sent them home early to begin an immediate transition back into civilian life. Others face career uncertainty and stagnation as promotion rates continue to drop for both enlisted and officers. In many ways we’re serving in a post-war military in the middle of war.

Other hints at the changing war are less ominous, but obnoxious nonetheless. Many Americans imagining life in Afghanistan picture remote outposts where battle weary soldiers live with Spartan conditions and constant firefights. That’s a reality for a minority of combat troops, but far from what life is like for most of us. The truth is that the long wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan have produced sprawling bases with various amenities including shopping areas that resemble run-down suburban strip malls. It’s true that you could die from a rocket attack while enjoying your sandwich at a Subway in Afghanistan, but the reality of the war is that you get used to both the rockets and the skewed comforts of home.

When the fast-food restaurants shut down it’s a sure sign that the end of war isn’t far behind.