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Soldiers Inspire Growth in Gardez's Surrounding Communities

By Pfc. Kelly Hunt, USA
National Guard Bureau

GARDEZ, Afghanistan, Sept. 15, 2003 – Making a difference in Afghanistan requires teamwork, diligence, commitment and a strong desire to be part of the community. The soldiers of the Gardez Provincial Reconstruction Team understand those values and are implementing them during their rebuilding and stabilizing efforts.

Their mission is to support the rising of the local government and to help rebuild the surrounding communities -- one school, one road, one bridge and one relationship at a time.

The PRT is in the area to provide "responsive access" to resources related to security, education, economy, agriculture and infrastructure issues, said Army Lt. Col. Anthony Hunter, Gardez PRT commander, 321st Civil Affairs Battalion.

With the unit acting as a stability force in the Gardez area, "I think we have (encouraged) the Afghan National Army to take over that role more and more," said Army Capt. Brad Domby, Gardez PRT engineer.

The hope is to improve the security environment to attract more involvement from nongovernment organizations that could help in the rebuilding effort, Hunter said. But he added that attracting those organizations to Afghanistan requires the commitment of both the coalition forces and the local population to provide a secure place for rebuilding teams to come to.

"This is a cooperation effort between the Afghan government and the U.S. government," said Domby.

Soldiers from Civil Affairs Teams 12 and 13 and the 10th Mountain Division have embraced the concept that working side by side with local people is the only way to nurse Afghanistan back to health.

"It's a good concept and a good experience," said Army Sgt. John Bodey, Combined Joint Civilian Military Operations Task Force, Gardez PRT. "We do a lot of work for the local people, (and) it helps them out."

Civil affairs team projects usually stay in the realm of clinics, wells and schools, said Domby. "Schools and wells are primarily the big ones, because they're the ones that have the most impact right now."

But the soldiers do attach a condition to their school-building efforts.

"If we build a school or refurbish a school, (the Afghan citizens must) make it available to girls," said Domby. "That's why it's important that we do this."

In addition to 39 school projects, the PRT has contributed to the development of eight clinics, three bridges and several other projects, bringing the team's overall total to 72 projects, 24 of them now complete, said Hunter.

Despite all the accomplishments the soldiers have made, they still strive for more, trying to discover ways to reach out to the farthest points of their jurisdiction.

"We cover a five-province area, and getting to every project is a challenge," said Domby. "The hardest ones are the ones so far away that I can't get to them, (but) I think we're making some headway."

Bodey said it's great to be able to help the Afghans experience things Americans sometimes take for granted, and that it's especially rewarding to get a smile from one of the children.

(Pfc. Kelly Hunt is assigned to the 4th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Sgt. 1st Class Todd Galindo, A Co., 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, Fort Drum, N.Y., distributes humanitarian aid to the local population near Dara School, Paktya Province, in Afghanistan, with the assistance of local elders and dignitaries. Photo by Pfc. Kelly Hunt, USA  
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