Last week, I like to think I had the opportunity to glimpse at the future of Afghanistan.

“Yo, Gimme some chocolate,” said the Pashtun boy.

Four English words and a spirited request for candy demonstrated the effects of a decade of American presence in the region.

“Yo,” answered Capt. Michael Gagnon, a logistics officer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371. He responded in Pashto that he didn’t have any.

As of last week, I had been in Afghanistan roughly two and a half months and I’d hardly seen any Afghans.

My role as a combat journalist with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) means I don’t have the opportunity to interact with the population the way other forces do, but nonetheless, I was eager to be on the ground.

I traveled to the Helmand River Valley to spend a few days with Gagnon, who is on his third Afghan deployment in two years, and his small team, operating out of Patrol Base Alcatraz to construct helicopter landing zones for the small outposts here.

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