KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When I arrived in Afghanistan in July of 2010, as the troop surge was ramping up, the first flightline I saw was packed with newly arrived soldiers. The mood was alternately hopeful and grim, depending on where you looked.
I spoke with a group of privates fresh out of basic training and eager to prove themselves, as well as some seasoned leaders on their fifth and sixth combat tours. In ten years of service, one sergeant first class said he had seen six years of combat duty. He said he thought that ratio would continue until he retired.