Collective US Army Interview with Nick Hackworth II
NH: I’m just gonna start by—, if each one of you could tell me your name, your rank, your age, where you’re from, and how long you’ve been in Afghanistan.
MD: We've been here since late-July.
NH: You’ve all been here since late-July? OK, let’s scratch that last one.
SsP: I’m Staff Sergeant [Piasquit?] [0.42]. I’m originally from Appleton, Wisconsin,—I live in Indianapolis now. I’ve been in the military fourteen years, and I’m 32 years old.
RT: I’m Specialist Ryan [Tibb?] [0.54] and I’m from Danville, Illinois. I’m 20 years old, and I’ve been in the military for three years, so far.
MD: My name’s Specialist Matt [Dudevor?] [1.02]. I’m from West Point, New York, go to college in Indiana. I’m 22 years old. I’ve been in the military for two years.
MS: My name is Max [Searing?] [1.10]. I’m, a sergeant. I’ve been in the military eleven years. I’m 38 years old,—but I feel like I’m 25 [Laughs],—and I’m from Fishers, Indiana.
NH: So,—the first couple of questions—, this is basically a human-interest story,—half of it is kind-of not related to Afghanistan, and in the second bit I’m gonna ask some questions about Afghanistan. So for the first couple of question will just be like ‘What made you think about joining the army, and what other options [were there]?’ and that kind of stuff. So I’m just going to go round in turn.
What made you join up? Did you think about joining up for a long time before? Was it always an obvious career thing for you?
SsP: Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be in the army since a little kid. I had uncles, grandfathers all in the army,—or in the military. Both my grandfathers where in World War Two, and I had one uncle who was in the 82nd in the early-70s, and two other uncles who were in the army in the late-70s-early-80s, and another uncle who was in the airfoce in the 60s, so I’ve always grown up with the military,—being a strong military-background family,—[so it’s] just to do my duty and serve my country.
NH: What was the main attraction of being in the army?
SsP: Well, there was really no main attraction,—just to do my part, protect what we hold true to ourselves.
NH: It was a real sense of duty?
SsP: Kinda. I mean,—I grew up around [this stuff]. I had my own little set of army fatigues when I was growing up. I always had that stuff around me so it was almost like second-nature.
RT: For me, it was a lot of what Staff Sergeant Piasquit said. I had had relatives and friends who had served in various wars from World War Two through Vietnam, and I really felt it was my duty,—especially for my generation, today we’re so into ourselves and what we’ve got going on, but we don’t take a look sometimes at the bigger picture, and I thought that it was important for people of my age to step up,—I thought that was important. And it’s a challenge,—y’know, I wanted try and challenge myself, and definitely with the unit that I’m in now I can do that.
NH: You said you were 22, is that right?
NH: So how many of your peers and people of the same age from your home-town joined up as well? Was that pretty rare, for you to join up?
RT: There weren’t many. I mean, I have a very good friend and he’s in a different unit in Illinois,—they’re getting sent to Iraq in January,—but most of my friends aren’t in the military now.
NH: And how do they regard your choice to join the military?
RT: I think—y’know—we get along well. Obviously people would think there’d be some tension there between us,—y’know, people that joined and people that didn’t,—but they’re pretty accepting of that, and I accept their choice not to join. That’s part of why we love our country, that you’ve got the freedom to do those things, to make those choices,—so so far we’ve got along fairly well about that.
NH: Both of you have talked about a sense of duty. Do you think that’s something that’s not so prevalent in your generation?
RT: Honestly, yes, I do. I think it’s something that’s growing, as these years are going by and people get older they see it. But I think that to start out with my generation there’s a little bit less of a sense of that. We’re not the World War Two generation where everybody stepped up and went. I’m not trying to glorify going, I’m just saying it’s a job and it needs to be done. That’s the way I feel about it.
MD: I actually grew up—, I spent most of my childhood on the United States military academy, so enlisting—for me—was more a matter of when I ‘d finally do it. My father was a professor there. I’m third-generation army in my family. I chose not to attend West Point immediately after high-school because I wanted enlisting to be something I chose on my own, instead of it just being something I was born into.
NH: Was there ever a question that you weren’t going to join the army, or—?
MD: Y’know, I’ve always considered it,—it’s always been there. I went to a normal—y’know, a civilian—college, to make sure that it’s something that I wanted to do,—and of course here I am, so it was.
MS: When I originally joined my father was—, he didn’t want me to, he was against it,—and I was kind-of a rebellious—, I didn’t get along good with him, so that meant that I was automatically going in the military—
NH: So you did it to piss your dad off?
MG: [Laughs] That wasn’t the only reason, but that was an enticement just the same. But also, at the time, I also wanted the college money. And then when I did my four years I really had a good time, and there were other things that I was introduced to that I wouldn’t have got because my father—, not that he’s anti-military, but he just thought that it was not my calling. Once I got it I loved it,—i loved the teamwork, the camaraderie, the sense we’re doing something positive. And the other thing that I think of,—in as far as speaking for myself,—I feel like I’m pretty good at it, and there’s people that aren’t meant to do this, and for that reason there’s people like us that should step up. Instead of criticising other people, you need to lead by example.
NH: When you all joined up, do you feel it’s—, to what extent do you question where you go and where you’re sent?
SsP?: I don’t question it, because we volunteered, and part of volunteering is trusting your leadership, trusting the people who are put in charge. You may not agree with some things that the leadership says or does. But it doesn’t matter,—your job as a soldier is to follow orders, and when you’re given an order you gotta put all your personal feelings aside and you need to do your duty.
NH: What do you guys regard as the main aim of the American army here in Afghanistan? What do you see as your mission?
MD: Well, we’re here because of the terrorist attacks originally, and now the United States and other countries are helping build the Afghan national army, so I think the whole aim of that is to create some sort of stability in this nation, and as far as we’re concerned a more stable nation is maybe one that’s less prone to create terrorist acts. But also I think it just accomplishes something positive for this country, that they can have an army and be able to defend themselves and not have to rely on foreign aid someday.
NH: How have you found the response, in your experience, of the Afghan people.
RT: I think it depends on where you go. I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is these are common people,—y’know? I think generally it’s been positive. I think the only time they would get upset is if we would do something,—like, say if you’re farmer, if you’d walked through their field they’d be mad about that, because of course they would be! That’s their farm and their living. We don’t do that. As much as possible we try and stay out of that and try and respect their rights,—y’know? That’s the thing here,—they’re just average people, by and large, like we are, so they will be happy as long as we’re not trying to get in their business too much,—y’know,—try and interrupt their way of life too much,—and we try not to do that, as much as possible.
NH: What do you think about—, would you envisage being here—, you guys, you’re here till when?
MD?: We’re here for a year tour.
RT: Approximately a year, yeah.
NH: I don’t know how it works in the army,—do you get told exactly? No? You just get told roughly?
SsP: Well, roughly we’re supposed to be here a year. Some will be here longer, some will be here a little bit shorter. Depends, because we have groups that go back and set stuff up for when we go back,—get our billets all set up and stuff like that,—we call it an ‘Advan’ group [? 6.55]. And we have a group that’ll stay behind, and the group that replaces us they’ll take them around, show then what we know, and introduce them to some of the local leaders that we know, so they have a good rapport with the people, so when we leave they can take over from where we leave off.
NH: Have you had any good memories of your time in Afghanistan yet?
MD: Y’know, it’s just cool getting to travel.
RT: And climb the mountain.
MD: Yeah, we climb mountains here.
NH: Which mountains do you climb?
RT?: We climb the [Gharib Ghar] [? 09.23], which is just to the north-east of here. It started off with the first Americans, when they were here after all hostilities had pretty much ended,—there was an NCO, she climbed to the top of it and put a flag up there, and now I guess everybody else has been going up there. We climbed it as a squad.
NH: Is the flag still there?
RT:: Uh,—the flagpole was taken down, but it was put back up.
NH: If you could have one hope about what the US mission would accomplish,—or you as an army,—what would it be?
SsP: I think having these people be able to govern themselves, and do it where they respect all people no matter what tribe they’re from, or if they’re male or female or whatever, to give everybody the equality like we have in the United States, and be able to govern as a sound and just people, then it would all be worth it,—coming over here. And just let them be able to govern themselves, be able to defend themselves and stand up for themselves, and then we can go home, and I think it would be worth it.
NH: Last few questions. I want each one of you to tell me what your favourite band is.
SsP: I really don’t have a favourite! I like all sorts of music, so that’s kind-of a problem! [Laughs] In my CD player it’s a mixture of old 80s, to 60s and 70s, to heavy metal, to country, to even classical. It’s a very very mixed variety,—even polka!
NH: One favourite song?
SsP: One favourite song? Leonard Skynard, Free Bird,—it’s a good song.
RT: You took my band! [Laughs] Leonard Skynard, Simple Man,—that’s a good song. But I also listen to Tool, 311, Rob Zombie, New Found Glory,—all these kinds of bands.
NH: What about you?
MD: I’m pretty eclectic, but right now I’ve been listening a lot to Aphex Twin, and Orbital a bunch. If I had to pick a favourite song out of thin air it might be Girl/Boy by Aphex Twin.
MS: Favourite artist is John Coltrane. What’s in my CD player right now is Tool. Favourite band,—I couldn’t pick one,—I listen to all kinds of music.