Rush McCloy: Letter from Afghanistan

Rush McCloy is Lieutenant in the Navy who has been serving in Afghanistan since January 2008. He is the founder of Channelstone Partners and a graduate of University of Virginia and Wharton Business School. What follows is an actual email received by his father, John J. McCloy, on Wednesday, September 24.

Dad,

I hope everything is great at home. I really love what we are doing here and there is a part of me that will truly be sad to leave this country when I redeploy. I can not tell you how much I appreciate the package you and Mom mailed me. Receiving a care package with Mom’s handwriting on the box made me feel like I was back in summer camp on mail day. I received the articles you sent to me. It is hard to refute that the violence has accelerated. The fact is not flawed, but the tone does not capture the essence of what we see here and what we are doing for the country. In the last 7 months, we have invested almost $15 million in projects throughout our area of operation here. Our provinces have not only gained access to schools, clinics, women’s shelters and wells, but also gained necessary road projects that increased the economic development and security. Everything we do hires local nationals; many projects intentionally hired young nationals to help them learn a trade; and some hired women, a breakthrough in many regions.

We weave these efforts into the training and development of the Afghan National Security Forces. The community support of the local government through the combined ANSF and infrastructure development is paramount to the counterinsurgency fight. We are turning former insurgents into supporters and the anti-government elements are naturally fighting back because they are losing territory. Much of the violence we see is linked to the projects we build for the communities. Violence is not necessarily a negative reflection of the campaign here, but a reflection of the immense efforts we are putting into the communities. I believe there is a natural spike prior to the decline.

Additionally, too many articles focus on friendly casualties. The burden of any casualty, friend or foe, is a heavy weight. Unfortunately, readers of the tabloids do not read about the people we capture when we are ambushed, work with them, help their communities, and then gain their support. I have looked in the eyes of and worked with people who shot at me and their groups are helping us now. It is fairly typical that the stories from the field do not make it to the tabloids because the men and women in the field are focused on the mission with a sense of patriotism and selflessness that does not include self promotion. The friends we all have made with the local nationals are inimitable. If it were not for the distance and travel restrictions, they would be lifelong. I would like to think they are, but I have to be realistic. I remain hopeful and the memories and the lessons I have learned from them are unquestionably steadfast.

I know I have gone on a long tangent, but I just wanted you to know that what we are doing is really working in areas and a spike in violence does not necessarily mean the situation is slipping. Quite the contrary. I do believe we need more support here and more investment into the infrastructure. It will take time and it is not World War II. Those who think it is taking too long have not looked at all the angles of this incredibly complex campaign. If only they could see how people are changing and how much we are giving to future generations. Also, if only they could have the patience my parents have and, in my case, Brooke has had in pushing off our marriage until I finish this tour. I do feel blessed for having had the opportunity to serve here. Man, it has given me a great perspective and a great sense of what is important.

I love you so much and please give Mom my love…..dogs too. I can not wait to meet Snipe. I will slip him a piece of Turkey under the table at Thanksgiving when Mom is not watching.

Love,
Rush

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