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Afghan Officials, Coalition Forces Aid Stranded Villagers

By Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons
Special to American Forces Press Service

NAWA DISTRICT, Afghanistan, Feb. 28, 2005 – The severe winter weather in eastern Afghanistan has left many villages cut off from vital supplies in the mountainous terrain of eastern Ghazni province. Clearing roads of the more than three feet of snow to get villagers necessary supplies was extremely difficult.

Ghazni province Gov. Asadula Kalat came to the coalition with a terrible situation. The people in some remote villages were starving and suffering from exposure to the elements. "There are 10,000 families in the Nawa district," said Kalat. "They have no wood for fuel or food. They are dying."

The governor had supplies to help the villagers, but no way to get the supplies to the people who badly needed them, said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Brian Ostrowski of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment.

"He had the supplies; we had the ways and means of getting it to the people," said Co. A infantryman Spc. Scott Campell.

Earlier this month, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter stopped at Forward Operating Base Ghazni and picked up bags of flour, beans and rice, as well as oil for cooking and heating, and blankets. The crew flew the supplies and the governor to a small village surrounded by nothing but deep snow.

When the governor got off the aircraft in single-digit temperatures and stepped into three feet of snow, a small crowd of people greeted him and started to unload the more than five tons of much-needed supplies from the aircraft.

The aircraft returned to the FOB, was again loaded with supplies, and headed out to another desperate village. As the pilots neared the second area, they found they couldn't land because of poor visibility, so they performed an aerial drop of the supplies.

The people of the village ran out to collect the provisions as they fell from the sky.

"We delivered over 10 tons of food to the people," said Kalat.

The supplies were enough to help them survive until they were able to get out and get more supplies for themselves, said Campell.

This lifesaving mission is one example of the cooperation between Coalition forces and the Afghan government, he said. "This provides us with an opportunity to show the people what their government is capable of," said Campell. "It showed them that the government cares about the people."

This emergency humanitarian aid also has benefits for the soldiers involved. "It's days like this that let you know that your time away from home is worth it," said Ostrowski. "It feels good to the guys that they feel they can make a difference to the people here."

The humanitarian aid provided by the governor and delivered via coalition aircraft is a change of pace in this war-torn country. "When we were flying over the village, I was thinking about when the Soviets were here and the only thing that came from the air was bombs," said Kalat. "Now, they are getting food from the sky. This is very good for my people."

(Army Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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