Today I had the pleasure to meet Afghan Rambo. Add that ‘celebrity’ to my previous fixer and project assistant, Hamid, aka The Afghan Lenny Kravitz. A young man who is a dead ringer for Lenny Kravitz ala his short dreads in the “Fly Away’ video, who taught me to ride a motorcycle in the back streets of Kabul at night, dresses like a pimp, and is simply WAY too cool for Afghanistan.
Rambo is no Sly Stallone. A slight, innocuous looking Afghan. He is, however, hell-bent on defending the US forces, and earned his nickname from the troops that bear witness to his loyalty each and every day. Literally.
His weapon of choice? A baseball bat. Upgraded recently from his previous weapon, a lead pipe with tape wrapped around one end.
His target? Anyone that would threaten Camp Phoenix. The NATO coalition base on the eastern side of Kabul. To date, he has singlehandedly prevented two suicide bombers. He is now official security and has taken this role to heart. Standing outside the gates every day for the past 7 years to. Rumor is he has taken off 5 days in the past 5 years.
His first save was Rambo-esqe when he literally disarmed a suicide bomber in his car with nothing more than his instinct of danger and lead pipe.
A former tank commander during the Soviet era, his wife and child were killed by a Taliban attack. He was working as a front gate guard for a driving company at what is now Camp Phoenix when the Americans rolled in. He hasn’t left since. He became a household name at Camp Phoenix, the nickname stuck, and a legend was born. In 2007 USA Today wrote about it, President Bush commended him, and his fellow soldiers rallied to buy him a television and help find jobs for his two sons.
Since then he has been part of several would-be attack preventions, not just protecting the US but all of the coalition forces that call Camp Phoenix home during their tours.
He wears a camouflage uniform that’s covered with patches from every unit that has rotated through Camp Phoenix. Soldiers count him as one of them, a loyal protector, willing to die for them.
“Whenever the Americans leave, I will leave,” he has said. “As long as they want me to stay, I will stay.”