Chaplains tell of disillusionment among US troops

|PIC1|Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion and Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion, have been serving in a makeshift chapel at a US base southwest of Kabul for the last nine months.

They told The Times newspaper that the soldiers were depressed and disillusioned and that their tours in the country had come down to “just surviving”.

“The many soldiers who come to see us have a sense of futility and anger about being here. They are really in a state of depression and despair and just want to get back to their families,” Captain Jeff Masengale, of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2-87 Infantry Battalion, told the newspaper.

“They feel they are risking their lives for progress that’s hard to discern,” said Captain Sam Rico, of the Division’s 4-25 Field Artillery Battalion. “They are tired, strained, confused and just want to get through.”

The yearlong mission of the battalions is to secure the Wardak province and win the hearts of the people with humanitarian aid and good governance but its proved arduous. The Taleban has struck the battalions with around 180 roadside bombs and out of their 1,500 soldiers, nineteen have been killed in action, one committed suicide, and around a hundred have suffered amputations and other serious injuries.

Some of the troops admitted to The Times that they were no longer sure about their mission in Afghanistan.

Specialist Raquime Mercer, 20, told the newspaper: “We’re lost – that’s how I feel. I’m not exactly sure why we’re here.

“I need a clear-cut purpose if I’m going to get hurt out here or if I’m going to die.”

The chaplains told The Times that even the “hard” men in the battalions were coming to the chapel and breaking down.

“Everyone you meet is just down, and you meet them everywhere — in the weight room, dining facility, getting mail,” said Captain Rico.

Captain Masengale added that the number of soldiers divorcing was “skyrocketing”, while others just wanted to “make it home alive” so that they could see their wife and children.

“We have to encourage them, strengthen them and send them out again. No one comes in and says, ‘I’ve had a great day on a mission’. It’s all pain,” he said. “The only way we’ve been able to make it is having each other.”