There aren't any real ways to describe what Afghanistan was like to civilians. Life on deployment is just so bizarre that the only thing you can do is compare it to something else.
You could say that it's a blisteringly hot desert with creepy-ass bugs that's peppered with some assholes who want us dead, but a more telling analogy would be to compare it to Star Wars' desert planet of Tatooine.
But you might find something that someone else might find interesting. Won't be you though.
(Photo by photo by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski)
Constantly looking around for nothing
There are moments on deployment when things get intense. That's not up for debate. But there is a significant difference between the number of troops who've been deployed and the number of troops who've seen actual combat. For the most part, patrols come back having received nothing more than a few glares from the locals.
You might have one of the few grunts who was constantly on-mission for duration of your deployment, but for the other 99.99 percent of us, there's a lot of nothing going around.
...during which, you guessed it, nothing will happen again.
(Photo by Sgt. Steven Quinata)
Nothing to do if you're on an outlaying FOB
Even when troops get back to the FOB — surprise! — there's still nothing going on.
The two-thirds of the "Fobbits" who didn't join you have nothing interesting to talk about and you're just twiddling your thumbs waiting until the next time you can go out on patrol.
Chances are, you're not going to find a droid with an encoded message from a princess, so just enjoy your recording of a movie that came out three years ago.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. David Carbajal)
The locals sell old hand-me-downs
Despite popular civilian belief, you actually can snag some solid quality-of-life things from the local bazaars.
But it's never anything actually useful — unless you're interested in a collection of ripped DVDs of some 90s sitcom. It's like the old hunk-of-junk droids that Luke buys. I mean, yeah, they kick off the Hero's Journey for Luke, but everyone else who buys that crap is probably going to hawk it off to the next guy.
Definitely smells about the same...
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)
The main airfields were just weird
At first glance, Kandahar Airfield sounds like a Mos Eisley-esque, wretched hive of scum and villainy. Many years ago, that may have been true, but now it's just... odd.
Everyone from all the NATO nations are headquartered there and with that diversity comes an odd mixture of cultural identities. Everyone seems so happy for no reason, despite there being a literal pond full of sh*t just downwind.
Both aren't known for their spectacular aim, either.
The terrorists are basically the Tusken Raiders
Terrorists are aggressive and attack when you least expect them to. Once, there was a time when they were feared for their ability in battle.
Truth is, they're garbage and get wasted pretty fast whenever they show their faces.
It's hard to differentiate the two sometimes. They're usually the only fat people people in a war-torn and impoverished nation, but no one ever says anything about it...
(Photo by Sgt. Tracy Smith)
The warlords are basically Jabba the Hutt
The Afghan leadership thinks they have control over the warlords, but they really don't. No one wants to call them out for their criminal enterprises; it's not a fight anyone is willing to take.
Accepting that you have to pay off the Hutts to get things done is the norm on Tatooine. It's basically the same in Afghanistan.