Ed Bruce is a 28-year retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant (CMSgt). He enlisted straight out of high school in 1987 and served as an Air Traffic Controller. In 2015, he retired as an Operations Group Superintendent. He currently lives in Woodstock with his wife, Tonya. They have 4 kids and 2 grandkids, with their only son currently serving in the Marines. As a retiree, he enjoys flying, fishing, golfing, and spending time with his family. He is very active in the American Legion Post 29 and works to provide useful service to fellow veterans.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ed Bruce

InsiderAdvantage caught up with Bruce for his perspective on the situation in Afghanistan and what it looks like to a veteran back home. In a candid, lengthy interview, Bruce shares some of his thoughts on the situation now and what led us to this point.

What is your general perception of Afghanistan now?  

It is a (expletive) show!  Our government has totally embarrassed its people and caused many that have served or currently serving in the military to question their service and sacrifices for the last 20 years. My heart breaks for the parents, husbands/wives, and the kids of those members that lost their life. I hope they find comfort in knowing that their loved ones sacrificed their lives to protect the United States from another outside terrorist attack, saving countless lives in the process.

I feel that our government has truly let down the people of both, the United States and Afghanistan. When I say let down the US, I believe this was America’s longest war because of undefined and ever changing strategies dictated strictly by political agendas of whichever party was in charge at the time. This has spanned across four different presidents (three past and the current sitting). Each one had the chance to alter what we are seeing on TV. I believe our mission was to eliminate al-Qaeda, the Taliban, capture or kill Osama Bin Lama, and possibly try to establish some form of Afghan government to help deter terrorist from using Afghan territory. Once there, we found a very difficult to because of cultural and social differences not only between American and Afghan people but also amongst the Afghan people themselves.

Bruce with his interpreter Mustafa, whose family was allowed to escape to the U.S. but he was not

I feel sorry for the Afghan people that helped and served with us. The United States provided false promises that we would provide for their safety and security for aiding our government knowing that it could be their death sentence once we left. This is being proved now after the military was ordered to evacuate the largest, most secure location in Afghanistan. This exit came during the cover of night and without informing the Afghan military that we were leaving and never coming back. Many of these people will not make it out of Afghanistan. They and their families will pay the ultimate price once it is known that they have aided the United States. I also feel for the innocent people that have come of age in the last 20 years because the only way of life they know has just shattered to pieces. We have just created an entire generation of Afghans that will never view America in a good light again. Their government and military failed them. We also hold some of the blame for letting them down.

Do you feel its the right time to get out? Should we have gotten out long ago? 

I feel we should have gotten out long ago. We all but eliminated al-Qaeda, (with no help of Pakistan) killed Bin Laden, and we tried to establish a government only to watch it succumb to corruption and ineffectiveness. We were never going to be able to create a functioning democracy in Afghanistan. Once our government decided to expand the original mission, there was never going to be a right time to leave. Instead of becoming an expeditionary force we became an occupational force that was directed to install facilities, train personnel and provide protection from terrorist organizations. We promised, and delivered many great things. They just weren’t sustainable unless we were there to ensure it.

Were you surprised by the speed of the American-supported government collapse? 

No, not surprised in the least. My opinion is that Afghanistan is a third world country where the people have no desire to establish a centralized governing body that everyone must abide by. They have lived in isolated villages and provinces governed by “their” people, tribalism at its best. It is a way of life that they care about most. They are not nationalists. They are regionalists at best. They follow the strongest kid on the block and loyalties can change at a moment’s notice. Russia imposed a government that failed. We imposed democracy and it failed. The strongest kid of the block, the Taliban, is back in power because they realize that the way to rule Afghanistan, and have people follow/comply, is at the end of a gun barrel. That offends our western values, but it is the way that country has operated for centuries. They have no loyalty to a country in the way we cherish it. A very smart Afghan friend explained that loyalty is to religion, region, and tribe. The loyalty to other regions or tribes can be bought. Viewing the rapid collapse of both the army and centralized government, I think he was 100% correct. The collapse of both was going to happen regardless of when we left.

Was the old regime too much propped up by corruption?  

Absolutely and completely corrupt. Afghans place great value in strength and loyalty (when they give it). Strength can be food and sustenance, military prowess, money, or brute force. The relative peace that Afghanistan enjoyed over the last decade or so, was bought and paid for by America. Now that we are leaving, the strongest to replace us is the Taliban. There is a reason the entire nation capitulated in a matter of days without much fighting at all.

Should Biden have started the evacuations earlier or was there a danger that would signal a collapse? 

Yes, the evacuations should have begun the day Trump reached a deal with the Taliban. I believe a definite “exit date” should never have been established or given. If Biden would have kept Bagram AB open, I do not believe you would see the things you are seeing on TV. From the day it was announced we were leaving, evacuations should have started and the processing of those that aided us should have commenced. A slow, safe, and orderly process over a year would have been easier to accomplish from Bagram than what we see today. The base was completely safe, both geographically and militarily. I served at Bagram AB twice and have seen first hand the heavily fortified perimeter and the infrastructure that includes two runways and a parking ramp that can hold over 100 aircraft. Compare this to the single runway in the capital city of Kabul. Bagram is a base that is the size of a small city with harden structures to house and feed people, a 50 bed hospital, and other facilities that would serve the people well while waiting for evacuation flights out. The established perimeter was already outfitted with high-tech cameras along with patrolling guards. Additionally, why would you evacuate the majority of your military before ensuring all civilian, US and Afghani (documented US aid givers), are not safely evacuated? Closing Bagram was a colossal mistake that will go down as one of the biggest in military/diplomatic history.

The last part of your question is debatable because the central government would still be getting support from us up until the last boot left the ground. It was destined to collapse as soon as we quit holding it up. Now we are trying to legitimize a terrorist organization, the Taliban, as the de facto government.

Did you ever enjoy your time in Afghanistan?  

I had numerous occasions where I enjoyed my time there. When you deploy to a combat zone, no one ever knows what to expect. I had the opportunity to work with some outstanding people and do things that most will never experience. You learn to make the best of the situation presented to you and move on. One specific person I really enjoyed working with was our Afghan interpreter, Mustafa. He was a 21 year old that was not allowed to leave Afghanistan while his family was able to escape when the government collapsed prior to the US arrival. He was a super-friendly kid that always talked of wanting to visit the United States and reuniting with his family. He was tragically killed in an airplane crash while working for our government and unfortunately didn’t get the chance.

Anything else that you feel readers should know? 

After serving for 28 years and being able to see various parts of the world, it only reinforced my belief that I live in the greatest country on the planet. This is especially true after seeing Afghanistan. I will never take for granted what I have because people there live in horrible conditions under horrible circumstances.

I don’t want this debacle that we are viewing blamed on military members. We left our loved ones to avenge the attacks of 9-11 and to hold those guilty, accountable. When we were told to go, we went and continue to do what we have been trained to do, no matter when and where. It has never been the fault of the military rank and file when civilian-led changes make our job almost impossible to accomplish. I fear, at some point, that the elected leadership will rewrite their failures and blame them on the military. If the current debacle fails to get all of those we promised a way out, I have little faith that those making the decisions will be held accountable.

I would personally like to thank all my fellow veterans and active military members for their service and selfless sacrifices to our wonderful country! Some have paid with their life while others have returned broken on the inside. Your service is honorably and should never be degraded or misrepresented by anyone. If you feel like you need to talk with someone because you feel your service and sacrifice was for naught please reach out to fellow veterans or organizations that have members that are more than willing to listen and help. Remember, we have brethren from Vietnam that experienced some of the same things that are occurring now.


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