Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Prankster winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan

This is great. One thing common to all cultures is humor. It is simply impossible to suppress, or indeed oppress (ask the Mullahs of Iran.) To make the attempt is futile. Humor is one of the most effective ways to connect with people, even and especially during wartime. We've all experienced or heard about humor in combat, being an effective way to deal with the extreme boredom between fights, and with the aftermath of the fighting itself. I, as a civilian have noticed that the funniest human beings I have personal acquaitance with are invariably folks in the services, and especially Marines. Don't ask me why that is, but it's true. Army folks are not far behind.

That brings me to this story, Staff Sergeant Steven C. Staley has taken humor into yet another realm: Inadvertantly, perhaps, he has shown that it can play a strong roll in COIN. Yes COIN. Behold a comedic genius in cammies:

But most of all, he is known by the Afghan vendors of the local bazaar as ‘Snake Man’ for a beautifully executed prank he pulled at the beginning of his deployment in August.

Each time he visited the bazaar, Staley would ask the vendors if they could catch a cobra for him. He told them he wanted to take a picture of one with its hood spread.

“They all agreed the second trip I went out there that they couldn’t do it,” said Staley, an avid hunter and a member of the Choctaw Indian tribe who calls Seminole, Okla., his home. “But they pointed to the hills, north of us I guess, and said, ‘If you go over there, you can catch one.’”

Staley told the vendors he’d try to catch a cobra while on a patrol the following week. “And that’s when I started cooking up this little plan,” he said.

Staley found an empty sand bag and placed a curled segment of a rubber fuel hose inside it. With some clever acting, he convinced the vendors that he had a live cobra inside.

“I held the sandbag away from my body just to give them the impression I had really caught one,” Staley said. “And they saw me coming, and they were like, ‘Sergeant Staley, you got one? You got a cobra?’ and I said, ‘Well, yeah, but I didn’t catch it,’ because they already knew I was scared of them. So, when I got closer to them, two of them started backing away and the other two put their hands on the top of the sandbag, because they didn’t want me to open it up.”

As the vendors began to communicate frantically in Pashtu, the joke culminated in Staley’s reaching his hand into the bag, pretending to get bit, and throwing the hose up. Two of the vendors screamed and a third began backpedaling in his sandals, kicking up rocks and dirt as he went. Two U.S. soldiers watching the performance from a distance said if it had been caught on video it would have become a YouTube classic.

Now, as soon as Staley steps into the gate of the bazaar area he hears, “Snake Man, come over here!” he said.

Be sure to read the whole story HERE.

Spencer Case (the writer of the story) is right. This would have been YouTube gold. Really a shame someone didn't have a camera. The sight of the vendor back peddling, the other two shrieking...comedy gold.

Tuesday Blues

Mississippi Fred McDowell - Goin Down to the River