War on Terrorism

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Texas National Guard members help set Afghan school children up for success

By Army National Guard Capt. Jacqueline Wren
Georgia National Guard

When Americans think of spring they might think of rain, flowers returning from months of hibernation or children getting antsy with the thrill of upcoming summer. In Afghanistan a different excitement stirs in the month of March, and that is of children welcoming the start of the school year.

The Georgia Army National Guard’s 648th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Task Force Hydra, is active throughout Kabul working with Kabul’s political leaders, religious leaders and police to provide humanitarian assistance and funding for special projects. Two such projects are aimed at providing a better quality of life and employment for local Afghans.

This month the advancement of education was the focus of one of seven current projects that the team is overseeing.

On the first Sunday of classes, the TF Hydra civil affairs team, led by Army Lt. Col. Michael Hulsey along with Army Col. Andy Hall, TF Hydra commander, set out for a school with back-to-school gifts for the children.

Darulaman, a community within Kabul, is home to a school that is responsible for educating more than 3,000 students in grades one through 12. This school is the site of one of the seven current humanitarian projects that TF Hydra is currently overseeing. This particular project is to build a privacy wall for the school that will provide protection for girls attending the school.

“In Afghanistan, boundary walls equal security and privacy, which afford a conducive learning environment for this community’s youth” Hulsey said about the project that broke ground this week and is scheduled to be complete within 45 days.

Along with checking in on the progress of the privacy wall, the teams brought more than 400 bags of school supplies collected by Operation Outreach, a Soldier-run humanitarian organization, for the school’s head master to share with the students.

Hall had an opportunity to speak with children in the classrooms and shared with them that his wife teaches school back home and that he will consider them all friends after that day.

When speaking to the classes of female students, he introduced Lt. Col. Robyn Blader, a member of TF Hydra’s staff judge advocate team. Blader shared with the girls the importance of education in her own life.

An eighth grade female student, Gulnaz, who spoke English, shared with Blader that she wants to go on to college and study literature. She also said that it was nice to have Soldier visiting them.

“This was one of the best missions I’ve been on,” Blader said. “These kids are learning 15 different subjects in a bare classroom with only a black board and can only attend three hours a day. It’s nice to be able to help them.”

Hall agreed.

“Very near and dear to our heart is the education of children,” said Hall before departing. “I know you share the same thoughts and that creates an educational bond for us.”

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