By Capt. Erick Saks, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 28, 2007 - Months of work and cooperation between the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team and the Afghan government culminated in two ribbon-cutting ceremonies Nov. 26, as hundreds of community members and several civic leaders officially opened a girls school and a health clinic in the Kapisa province's Kohistan II district. Kapisa Gov. Kwaia Kholam Abubaker and Army Capt. Jordan Berry, Bagram PRT's Kapisa civil affairs team leader, presided over the ceremonies opening the Dihat Dasht girls school and the Jamalagha basic health clinic.
The Dihat Dasht girls school is an eight-classroom facility that will accommodate about 160 students. The $150,000 facility includes four faculty offices, restrooms, a well, a guard house and a perimeter wall.
Hamidullah Hatan, Department of Education representative, spoke at the school-opening ceremony, emphasizing the Afghan government's focus on education and stressing the community's duty to their new school.
"We are very grateful to the PRT for building this great school," Hatan said. "Now, it is the responsibility of the community to maintain it and keep those people away who would shoot rockets at it."
The eight-room Jamalagha basic health clinic is the first of its kind in the area and will be staffed by a doctor, a midwife, two nurses and two vaccination technicians, said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Deborah Taylor, PRT medical team noncommissioned officer in charge.
"This clinic offers family-practice care, prenatal care, vaccinations and pharmaceutical services," she said. "Before this clinic was built, there wasn't a place for the people to find this kind of care in the area. This facility will have a huge impact on the lives of the people here."
Aziz Jan was the contractor for the $85,000 health clinic and said he was very satisfied with the project and was glad to create the facility for the people of the region.
"The community here is made up of good people," he said. "They were always helpful and are very excited about the clinic." The relative peacefulness of the community allows the PRT to complete projects like this in the area, Berry said. "Kohistan II is a beautiful district with friendly people," he said. "We have never had any issues with the people here, and this security allows us to help the community."
The governor agreed, expressing his gratitude to the community for embracing peace and supporting the government. "Thank you to the people of Kohistan for keeping the peace here," the governor said. "Only with peace can we build schools and clinics, giving the people freedom to study and improve themselves."
These ceremonies are the first of a series of about a dozen ribbon-cutting ceremonies planned over the next month, Army Maj. Jim Blashford, Bagram PRT acting commander, said.
"The projects we're finalizing range from schools and clinics to roads and wells," Blashford said. "It's a busy and exciting time for the Bagram PRT. From the time the team arrived in March, our focus had been coordinating new projects and overseeing their construction. Now many of those projects are wrapping up, and we're all finally able to see the fruits of our labor."
(Air Force Capt. Erick Saks serves with the Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan.)