By Army Staff Sgt. Marcos Alices
Special to American Forces Press Service
Oct. 13, 2009 - Because success in Afghanistan depends on winning the confidence of the people, U.S. forces are increasing reconstruction activities and changing the way they interact with the Afghan population. Officials at Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan are reaching out to the community as they establish the second humanitarian assistance yard in Afghanistan.
"We are providing needed supplies to communities around the region," said Army Spc. Antonio V. Charles, a humanitarian assistance specialist from Newark, N.J.
The program started in 2005 at Bagram Airfield. The yard's purpose is to provide timely disaster and emergency relief to Afghan communities. Poverty, famine, droughts and years of war have created a need for such a facility, officials explained. The yard provides a storage and distribution center for humanitarian aid supplies such as food, clothing, school and medical supplies, and certain household items.
"[The humanitarian assistance yard] will allow many Afghan families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged to stay put and rebuild instead of evacuate," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Corey L. Garner, a humanitarian assistance noncommissioned officer from Aliceville, Ala. "By staying, they can continue to use local merchants and services and build the community back up, and possibly bring in opportunistic businesses."
The Kandahar Airfield humanitarian assistance yard was initiated early this year in an effort to efficiently distribute supplies. The yard will support the southern and western regions of Afghanistan, while the Bagram yard supports the northern and eastern regions. The yard here is expected to begin supply distribution Oct 15.
The humanitarian assistance yard creates a better working relationship between the United States and Afghanistan, Garner said. "It promotes economic growth," he explained. "It shows that our presence here is far more than just one of conflict, but of peace."
Several U.S. agencies working closely with local communities will identify needs and submit requests to the humanitarian assistance yard, where the staff will coordinate, transport and deliver the requested items.
The yard's presence here has provided jobs and opportunities for local residents. Afghans will be hired to work side by side with soldiers in operating the yard. All supplies stored in the yard were purchased through local vendors.
But it takes more than just gathering supplies to get the yard up and running. The soldiers working at the yard built it from the ground up. They had to do everything from conducting an initial site survey to coordinating with vendors. They also maintain records and keep track of inventory.
"It is nice to help the people of Afghanistan and show the people another side of Americans instead of bullets and guns," said Army Pfc. Timothy J. Fiel, a humanitarian assistance specialist from El Paso, Texas.
(Army Staff Sgt. Marcos Alices serves with the Joint Sustainment Command Afghanistan public affairs office.)