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Weekly Address Expands Coalition Reach in Afghanistan

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

GHAZNI CITY, Afghanistan, Dec. 30, 2004 – Provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan have enjoyed great success interacting with the Afghan people. And while face-to-face contact accomplishes much, the PRT here, among others, uses the airwaves to help accomplish its mission.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Coalition members and Afghan officials prepare for their weekly broadcast on the Ghazni, Afghanistan, television station. The broadcast is a way to keep citizens informed of coalition reconstruction and security efforts. Photo by Sgt. Jennifer S. Emmons, USA
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Two soldiers go to the Ghazni radio and television studio each week to produce a broadcast address to the local community as part of an effort to reach out and inform area Afghans.

"Once a week we come to the station and talk to the people via television and radio," said Lt. Col. Gerald Timoney, Ghazni PRT commander. "It's a chance for us to let the community know what the coalition is doing in the area."

The address is taped and broadcast throughout the week. "We talk about a lot of different things during the show," said Lt. Col. Blake Ortner, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment. "We talk about the messages we have for the community."

Reconstruction and security are two of the major components of the weekly message.

"We are always asking for the community's help," Ortner said. "We ask them to turn in any weapons they have and report any suspicious people to the police." And the Afghan people are heeding the call.

"The response to the weapons turn-in program has been overwhelming," Ortner said. "We've had so many weapons and munitions turned in that we had to set up a turn-in point off the base to accommodate all of it."

The weekly address does more than ask for help from the local population, Timoney noted. It also lets the community know what coalition forces in the area are doing. The more people are informed of the coalition's intentions and plans for the area, the better, he said.

"If the people are informed that we are working to bring peace to the province, it makes them more confident in and supportive of the coalition," Timoney explained, "but more importantly, in their own government."

Ortner said the broadcast messages seem to be helping the PRT make inroads with the local citizens. "People are always coming up to me telling me they've seen me on TV," he said.

Making that regular contact, even if it's through television, is a step in the right direction, Timoney said. "Other PRTs are doing similar work throughout Afghanistan," he said. "You have to connect with the people. It's all about getting to know them and them getting to know us -- for them to know that we are here for them. We are here to help."

The weekly broadcast is just one part of the effort, he said. Combined with the reconstruction projects and security operations in the area, it helps the Afghans understand that the coalition wants to help Afghanistan become an independent and strong nation.

"Being here and seeing the growth among the community is great for my soldiers," said Ortner. "The Afghans are great people -- hard-working and friendly. It's truly an honor to be part of this mission."

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

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