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Female Dutch troops are in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province as part of the country's redeployment team.

Female Dutch troops are in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province as part of the country's redeployment team. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Female Dutch troops are in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province as part of the country's redeployment team.

Female Dutch troops are in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province as part of the country's redeployment team. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment serving in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan have been admiring their Australian counterparts? hats.

Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment serving in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan have been admiring their Australian counterparts? hats. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment serving in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan have been admiring their Australian counterparts? hats.

Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment serving in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan have been admiring their Australian counterparts? hats. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

08/17/2010  - From left, U.S. Army chaplain (Capt.) James Breckenridge, Australian Army Craftsman Warren Buys and Dutch Army Capt. Marco Heijmans watch a ceremony commemorating Australian efforts in the Vietnam war at Multinational Base Tirin Kot this week.

08/17/2010 - From left, U.S. Army chaplain (Capt.) James Breckenridge, Australian Army Craftsman Warren Buys and Dutch Army Capt. Marco Heijmans watch a ceremony commemorating Australian efforts in the Vietnam war at Multinational Base Tirin Kot this week. (Seth Robson/Stars and Stripes)

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan — Unisex showers? Raw herring for breakfast? Australian Rules football? Must be Multinational Base Tirin Kot.

Soldiers with 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment are working with hundreds of Dutch and Australian soldiers at this crowded post in Uruzgan province. It’s full-on cultural immersion, mate.

The 2nd Stryker “Dragoons” share Tirin Kot — TK for short — with a battalion of Australian troops as well as hundreds of Dutch soldiers helping with their country’s withdrawal from a four-year mission.

Working with foreigners, including small numbers of Singaporeans, French, Brits and Slovaks, means the Vilseck, Germany-based Dragoons follow different rules from what they would at an exclusively American base. For example, male and female soldiers at TK share latrine and shower blocks.

“That was a little strange at first,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Poremba, 28, of Norfolk, Va. “But the Americans, both female and male, adapted to it pretty quick.”

It doesn’t hurt that Dutch have a large contingent of tall, blonde female soldiers serving with their redeployment team in Uruzgan, he said.

“They are 300 times hotter than American girls in the military,” Poremba said.

The Australians are known for their colorful language.

“They say we swear a lot,” said one of the Australians, Craftsman Warren Buys.

As for how the Aussies see the Yanks, Buys said the 2nd SCR troops are nothing like the gung-ho American soldiers he’s seen in Hollywood movies.

“They actually are very smart and good at what they do,” he said. “We all share the same area so we have to bounce off each other. It’s, ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ ”

The 2nd Stryker troops don’t have a Morale, Welfare and Recreation area at Tirin Kot yet, but they can watch Australian Rules football or rugby with the Australians at a lounge called Poppies or drink sodas at The Outback Bar — a corrugated iron and wood barbecue area modeled on the sort of tavern found in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Alternatively, they can hang out at The Windmill, a restaurant where Dutch soldiers watch soccer and snack on food from their homeland such as kroketten (a fried, breaded meat).

First Lt. Tom Lorenson, 24, of Seattle, a platoon leader with 1st Squadron, quickly became “mates” with the Australians who, he said, have a more relaxed attitude than Americans.

“One of the officers I work with is called Capt. Welsh, but he wants me to call him, ‘Welshi,’ ” he said. “In the American Army, I’d call him ‘sir.’ ”

A typical Australian soldier reminds Lorenson of Crocodile Dundee, he said.

“I saw an Australian in the gym the other day,” he said. “The guy must have been 300 pounds and didn’t have any fat on him. He was huge and hairy.”

Erik Petersen, one of the last Dutch diplomats working in Uruzgan, said the biggest cultural difference between the Dutch and the Americans is the Dutch habit of eating raw herring for Sunday breakfast.

“It is a national tradition,” he said. “People hold the fish by its tail and eat it in two bites. I only know one American who does that.”

First Lt. Tyler Matthew, 28, of Charlottesville, Va., is impressed by the Australian slang, which includes works like, “crikey (wow), bonza (excellent) and cobber (buddy).”

“ ‘Ginga’ (a person with red hair) has become our favorite word, and they call us ‘roosters,’ ” he said.

The Australians work hard, he said, but know how to enjoy downtime and don’t let minor annoyances like snipers bother them.

“The other day I saw some of them up on the berm, hitting golf balls,” he added.

Matthew, who was eating lunch in the Dutch dining facility on Thursday, said he’s amazed by the raw fish consumption.

“Raw herring in the morning,” he said. “How in the world do you do that?”

robsons@estripes.osd.mil

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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