DVIDS – News – Fist bumps all the rage among Afghan children, American Soldiers in Qatar


CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – As ever-present as Afghan children temporarily staying on this patch of desert, so are the fist bumps they offer the Soldiers serving under Task Force Spartan’s Afghan Evacuations Mission Support Element.

The act consists of two people gently touching fists with their dominant hand upon meeting or prior to departing each other’s company. In some variations, participants quickly open their fists and spread their fingers immediately after the bump, simulating an explosion while making a “swoosh” noise. Although the practice’s purpose is clear – to show respect and friendship – what remains a mystery is how the fist bump became the rage among the young guests or how the practice gets passed from one tiny hand to the next.

Pfc. Trevor Mackie has an idea. A military policeman with the Army Reserve’s 447th Military Police Company, Mackie’s duty is to provide security and supplies for Afghan travelers. In his day-to-day interactions, Mackie encounters many children, and some use the fist bump as a means to get to know and bond with Soldiers.

“We don’t shake hands. A fist bump offers more of a connection between us because kids are curious and offering a fist bump is one of the many ways to get to know us,” Mackie, of Mount Vernon, Ohio, said.

Spc. Nicholas Schmidt, who is also a military policeman and from the same unit as Mackie, said he suspects the children might have learned the fist bump from Soldiers in Afghanistan. Over time, the practice became a less-formal means for children and Soldiers to connect.

Regardless of the origin, Schmidt said although he knew he would be dealing with children when he first arrived in Qatar, he did not expect them to be so friendly or that the fist bump would be such a common practice.

“The first time I encountered the fist bump was when I was taking out the trash,” Schmidt, of Brecksville, Ohio, said. “One kid came up to me and offered me a fist bump. Suddenly, four of five others came out of nowhere, all sticking out their fists to greet me.”

For Mackie, regardless of why the fist bump is so popular among Afghan children, their reasons for doling out the American gesture of respect is clear.

“They know we are here to help,” he said. “When they see the uniform, they’re going to come up to us, offer us fist bumps and talk to us because they feel safe, and they know we are here to protect them.”

Mackie’s assessment is consistent with why Sgt. 1st Class Cody Sawhill, the Task Force Liberty Military Information Support Operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge, believes the fist bump is common practice among the pint-sized travelers.

“Kids see Soldiers more than anyone else here. Day-in and day-out, Soldiers are the ones helping them,” Sawhill, of Fairfax, Virginia, said. “It’s the quickest way to say hi to Soldiers, especially with the language barrier.”

In most cases, the fist bump isn’t the only thing that happens on the multiple occasions that Soldiers meet children each day. Along with the initial fist bumps also come big smiles, makeshift English and Dari and Pashto lessons, handfuls of candy and impromptu soccer matches, which Mackie said help children understand Americans are here to help.

“We are the first piece of America they’re going to get. We can’t ignore them. We can’t stop paying attention to them. That’s not what America is, and that’s not who I am,” he said.

Date Taken: 12.22.2021
Date Posted: 12.23.2021 09:00
Story ID: 411849
Location: QA

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