The experience in the Army has not been easy for him. First, Rogers had to adjust to the military’s conformist culture. “It’s quite different than the Colby experience or civilian life. But it takes all kinds to make up our military,” he said.
Rogers was trained in hand-to-hand combat, navigational and first-aid skills, and how to use a variety of weapons. He has learned to lead and communicate with a team of soldiers. Jumping out of airplanes, something he never would have done if he had not joined the Army, has been the biggest thrill.
“You get a little nervous as you leave the plane, but once your chute opens you can enjoy the ride down—until you have to perform a landing,” he said.
“Landing at night is probably the most nerve-racking moment because you usually cannot see the ground until you hit it.”
(His advice: keep your feet and knees together.)
Then there was Ranger school, an intense nine-week course, where Ranger wannabes are put through the paces in Georgia’s woods and mountains. They get little food or sleep, making them cold, hungry, and tired amid extreme conditions.
“You learn to perform skills under high-pressure situations so in combat you’ll be successful,” he wrote.
Rogers made it through two thirds of the training, but he failed some of the graded leadership tests. He’ll be allowed to try again. A second attempt, however, will have to wait until his tour in Afghanistan is finished.
Last year was the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001, when the U.S.-led invasion began.
In his e-mail, Rogers wrote that he and others in his platoon received awards and medals for their role in fighting in Helmand Province. Rogers wrote that he was living in a tent across the road from Jordanian soldiers who wash their hands and feet before they face Mecca to pray five times each day. Outside the mess hall there was a sign that read, “No military personnel allowed in without a weapon.”
The Kandahar military base has a Burger King and Tim Hortons, operating out of trailers. Local vendors sell their wares, too, but the city outside the base gates is not be mistaken for home.
“I practice some Pashto with our terp,” the former swim coach wrote home. “He is from Kabul, where his wife, sisters, and parents live. He explains to me that in Kabul I could probably walk through the city safely, but not in Kandahar. There are too many Taliban connections there.”