KABUL -- One of the benefits of doing a combat tour in Afghanistan as opposed to Iraq (other than a less likely chance of getting your ass blown off) is the warm reception from the locals. The Afghans are pleased that the Americans are here. So pleased in fact, that in many villages that American convoys routinely pass through, it is not uncommon for the children of the village, and to a lesser degree the adults, to smile and wave to the soldiers. The soldiers, in the interest of public safety, are obliged to wave back. This exchange will occur on a given convoy no less than 50 times. After a while, the old wave becomes dull, and to spice things up a bit, soldiers have been known to produce more creative gestures. The "thumbs up" is the most obvious, and over-used of all the hand signals in-country. Pretty much everyone gives the thumbs up after they get sick of the wave. Certain serviceman, however, exhibit several more idiosyncratic examples of nonverbal communication.
You can usually tell if one of these assholes has ridden through a particular village, because all the children will be emulating whatever gesture he'd thrown out. There was a fat Samoan, Sergeant Mollo, who used to do the "hang ten" sign. If your convoy circumvented a village and the children made a fist with their middle three fingers, and extended their pinkies and thumbs, it was a pretty safe bet that Sergeant Mollo had driven through at some point. That goddamned fat Samoan. Another sergeant, Sergeant Fillmore, as a sort of homage to his peeps back in Crenshaw, used to throw up a "West Side" symbol. It's the one where you tuck in your thumb and make a "W" shape by locking your ring and middle finger while your pinky and index are spread eagle. That was a pretty popular one. Fillmore really sewed his royal oats with that one.
The kid's not throwing a sign, he got his finger blown off while playing with Soviet mines.
There are a few others that come to mind: the obligatory "Devil Horns," a widespread hand-sign throughout the Heavy Metal community. The "Okay" sign, where the thumb and index form a circle and the other three fingers are extended upright. And let's not forget the ever-popular middle finger. We all know how that one goes. I discovered early on in my tour that if we wanted our reform efforts to be successful, we would have to be resourceful; think outside the box. I owed these people, especially the children, a certain level of dedication and diligence in my work.
The U.S. brought security to Afghanistan (for the most part anyway). The Europeans brought infrastructure. Joe Sailor brought "The Shocker." Whose contribution will be most profitable to the future success of Afghanistan? Only time will tell.
German NATO troops aren't crazy about this one.
For all you middle-aged shitheads out there who are totally disconnected from pop culture and not quite sure what I'm talking about, here's a brief crash course regarding the nature of The Shocker: Shockerology 101. The shocker is a formation of the hand that is used in the pursuit of pleasuring a woman. If used properly, it can yield outstanding results, but discipline is essential. It's all in the wrist. You put your hand up, like your asking a question, only you bend your ring finger in, so you wind up with a shape almost like a pistol. The index and middle fingers go into the vagina while the pinky slides into the anus, leaving the thumb free to massage the clitoris. It's quite brilliant if you think about. The inventor, whoever he or she is, deserves the Nobel Prize. The Shocker, if executed properly, could do wonders for Afghanistan.
When I first threw out The Shocker, the kids were puzzled by it. At first they would make the Devil Horns, then switch to a peace sign, all the while with a look of bewilderment on their starving faces. It took rolling through the same village a few times before it finally caught on, but when it did, is spread like wildfire. Now there isn't a Village you can drive through East of Kabul that doesn't boast at least one Shocker enthusiast. To the passersby, one thing should be abundantly clear: Joe Sailor done rid through this part a' town, reckon. One of these days I'll get around to showing them what it's used for; preferably on a 16-year-old Muslim schoolgirl. But for right now, I have another immediate goal. By the end of the fiscal year I would like to teach all of the kids in Kabul to render a "Sieg Hail" salute to every German vehicle or convoy they see. That's the kind of progress I'm on board with. Hoorah!