Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

Shafo Sahil and Matt Waters on The Bond of the Battlefield

Air Dates: June 12-18, 2023

Soldiers know what it means to keep the faith—a character trait valued in others given the grim realities of fighting on distant battlefields.  Shafo Sahil and Matt Waters know the bond borne of shared battlefield experience and can help us understand what recent Hollywood portrayals got right and what they got wrong.

Shafo Sahil was an interpreter who was assigned to work as a Special Forces interpreter and completed over 100 missions in Afghanistan, including one where he saved for Matt Waters’ team from an IED. Sahil grew up in rural Kabul and was a good student who dreamed of going to college but sought work as an English teacher to help support his family after high school. After the Taliban tried to bomb his school, he decided to work as an interpreter to help defend his country from insurgents. As the U.S. prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan, they laid off interpreters and Sahil went back to work as a teacher. The Taliban started sending him death threats, and he went into hiding when they began searching for him at his home. He applied for a United States special immigration visa but was denied. When the Taliban overran Kabul, Waters and his team helped Sahil, his pregnant wife, and two kids get into Kabul airport and onto a military evacuation flight to the U.S. Sahil, his wife, and three kids now live in New Jersey at Waters’ parents’ home. Sahil now works as an IT Support Technician at Pfizer and is planning to purchase his first home in the United States.
Matt Waters is a U.S. Army veteran and a board member of No One Left Behind, a charitable organization focused on supporting former interpreters and U.S.-government employees eligible for the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa programs. Waters worked in the private and social sectors in Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East before joining the Army. He graduated the Special Forces course and High-Altitude Low Opening (military skydiving) course as a Weapons Sergeant. Waters deployed to Afghanistan for counterterrorism and counter-insurgency missions, where he met Sahil as the team’s interpreter. The two became good friends, bonding over family, their partners and the mission. A year later, after Waters’ team had returned to the U.S., the Taliban tried to assassinate Sahil and Waters helped Sahil and his family get to the U.S. Waters now sponsors private evacuation efforts and helps the International Rescue Committee and No One Left Behind better support Afghan refugees.

“Story in the Public Square” broadcasts each week on public television stations across the United States. A full listing of the national television distribution is available at this link. In Rhode Island and southeastern New England, the show is broadcast on Rhode Island PBS on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and is rebroadcast Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. An audio version of the program airs Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET, Sundays at 4:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m. ET, and Monday 2:30 a.m. ET, on SiriusXM’s popular P.O.T.U.S. (Politics of the United States), channel 124. “Story in the Public Square” is a partnership between the Pell Center and The Providence Journal. The initiative aims to study, celebrate and tell stories that matter.