TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS – Here in the middle of the rain forests of Central America, the United States military is painstakingly misapplying the lessons it learned from the War on Terror to the War on Drugs.
A soldier makes contact with tribal elders from the turret of his desert-patterned Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle, after getting stuck in a mud puddle.
"Salaam Alaikum," shouts Specialist Lenny Barnet to a group of Honduran farmers.
The farmers, who are overwhelmingly Spanish-speaking, just stare back blankly.
Specialist Barnet is just one of 600 soldiers who make up Joint Task Force-Bravo, a US military unit that has been helping the Honduran government fight narcotics traffickers in Central America.
According to Colonel Ross Brown, the commander of American military forces in Honduras, before his unit deployed he was given instructions by General Douglas Fraser at US Southern Command to pay strict attention to After-Action Reviews (AARs) coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Well, I wasn't too sure that we could apply lessons learned in landlocked Muslim desert countries to the jungles of Central America," said Colonel Brown, "but the General insisted, and orders are orders."
"According to the AARs, our first priority was to make sure that everyone spoke some basic Arabic," he said. "Then we did a series of classes on how to respect Islamic customs, which no one here seems to follow."
"One of my Staff Sergeants actually spent three hours trying to show a local priest where Mecca was."
"Then we ordered several dozen MRAPs to guard against IED attacks and made all our soldiers practice their 5's and 25's [explosive checks]. The checks, however, didn't last for long after several of them tried it in the jungle and fell down a ravine."
As Colonel Ross spoke, his men were busy conducting a census in a local village to find out how many people were Sunni or Shi'a.
After one of his men reported that no one seemed to know what a Sunni or Shi'a was, Colonel Ross smiled and said, "I can already see they're learning to ignore those things and work together!"
Back in Tegucigalpa, a counterbattery radar detachment was hard at work scanning areas of the Pakistani border, over 9,000 miles away.
"Well, we've been ordered to vigilantly watch for infiltrators coming from Pakistan," said a slightly confused Corporal Jesse Cass, "but I'm a little more concerned about the cartel gunfight going on outside our main gate."
According to Colonel Ross, the Task Force ultimately planned to set up a series of checkpoints throughout the country, a job he believed would be even easier since they could use all the MRAPs, which were unable to drive on the narrow Honduran dirt roads.
"Once we've established our checkpoints, we can easily separate the people from Al Qaeda, or whatever jihadi terrorist group is running around Central America," Colonel Ross observed.
"Then we can assist the locals in setting up a proper Islamic constitution, help them divy up oil reserves, and assist their multiple wives in finding jobs."