Soldiers in Afghanistan Foster New Relationships
By Army Sgt. Jessica Dahlberg
Special to American Forces Press Service
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, June 11, 2008 Task Force Gladiator soldiers of 101st Headquarters Support Company serve as the first line of defense here, manning entry-control points and ensuring base security.
Children from Gulam Ali village, Afghanistan, gather at the opening ceremony for their new all-girls school, June 7, 2008. Soldiers from 101st Headquarters Support Company and the 101st Division Band attended the school’s opening, and the HSC soldiers provided wood for the school staff to build desks. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica R. Dahlberg, 382nd Public Affairs Detachment
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Their operations often result in supplementing their guard role with envoy-related responsibilities.
“Maintaining security is not all just about the defensive posture,” said Army Capt. Stan Goligoski, 101st HSC commander. “We go out beyond the [gates] to interact and build relationships with the people in the local villages around us.”
As part of its Bagram Outreach Program, the unit works to provide local villages with water, power, security fences and anything else that may help.
The soldiers went to the village of Gulam Ali on June 7, and brought fuel for service generators, which they acquired for the village six weeks ago. Later that day, on invitation from the village elder, they went to the opening of a new all-girls school.
The soldiers attended the school’s opening to show respect for the culture and village elders, and even brought along the 101st Division Band to help celebrate the event. Still, their purpose in attending was two-fold, they said; they also went to check the school’s condition and resources.
Even though the school was new, it was in need of repairs as well as lacking standard items a school should have, Goligoski said. The HSC helped facilitate acquire missing items. For example, they provided wood so the school staff could build students’ desks.
“We have established a good enough relationship with the village elders that we can go straight to them if we have a problem, and they can do the same for us,” Goligoski said.
Acting as sentries and “pseudo-ambassadors” are not the only tasks the HSC soldiers accomplish. They also sponsor a program that pays monetary rewards in exchange for information about weapons caches.
“We get to know the people’s wants and needs, and in exchange, they provide us with information,” said Goligoski, who noted the program has been very successful.
The Bagram Outreach Program and Small Rewards Program complement each other, he explained. For example, one village leader told HSC soldiers of two weapons caches. In return, he received a cash award. Later on, the same village leader witnessed HSC soldiers repairing his village’s windmills and generators. For their effort, he informed them of another weapons cache.
Similar mutually beneficial relationships are being forged in many villages around Bagram Air Base.
Security is much more than manning a 24-hour entry-control point, the soldiers said. It is also about showing the Afghan people that coalition forces can provide a positive alternative to the violence enemy fighters offer.
(Army Sgt. Jessica Dahlberg serves with 382nd Public Affairs Detachment.)