Thursday, December 31, 2009

Nuristan PRT reaches out to local women


By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team visited the women of the Nengarach village in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, to talk about education in the area and the possibility of starting a female literacy program to help promote female equality within the region, Dec. 28. 

The Nuristan PRT gathered a group of females together to conduct a shura with the women of a village elder’s household and asked them questions regarding their education and what type of education they would like to receive if a literacy program was to be started.

“One of the local villages actually came to the Nuristan PRT to request a female literacy program,” U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Stacey Gross, Nuristan PRT information officer from Lakeville, Minn. said. “A group of local non-government organizations became the point of contact and started working on it. The United States Agency for International Development got involved, and then we started working with the NGO’s to actually start the program in Laghman and Nuristan.”

The overall literacy rate is unknown, but is believed to be fairly low in the province for both males and females. It is especially hard for the females to learn because of the expectations they have to uphold, such as cleaning, and caring for their family.

The women say they are doing their best to try to find time to learn new things, such as a new language and basic arithmetic. They hold learning sessions within the household for themselves and the women in the village.

The number one thing the women declared they wanted to learn was how to sew.

Another issue that was brought up in the shura was the health of the women.
The village has a clinic, a pharmacist, a dentist and two midwives, but the females cannot be seen by the pharmacist or the dentist, because both are males.

For any sickness, the local women are seen by one of the midwives. If neither of the midwives is available, or there is a sickness beyond the midwife’s practice, the women travel to Laghman or Nangarhar province to be seen by a female doctor.

In order for the U.S. servicemembers of the Nuristan PRT to promote literacy for the women in the Nengarach area, they have agreed to help provide sewing machines and have the women hold afternoon classes among themselves in order to learn to sew, and learn basic school subjects and possibly new languages.

“I hope the outcome of this shura will be to bring literacy throughout the Nuristan and Laghman provinces,” Gross said. “Hopefully it can be the starting point that will branch out to the other villages so they can see the benefits of what we’re trying to do, and they would want a female literacy program started in their village.”




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Lt. j.g. Stacey Gross, Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team information officer from Lakeville, Minn., left, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kathleen Leach, Nuristan PRT operations specialist from Smithville, R.I., wait to be introduced to the women of Nengarach village in eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan province, Dec. 28. The women of Nuristan PRT, along with United States Agency for International Development, conducted a women's shura to discuss various avenues in developing a literacy program for the women in the local area and promote female equality throughout the region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas fun for Kalagush


By U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Servicemembers on Forward Operating Base Kalagush celebrated the Christmas season with many fun events, such as a relay run, basketball tournament, gift giving and carolling, Dec. 24 and 25.

To start off the Christmas events, servicemembers and civilians ran the Icebreaker 10k relay race on Christmas Eve. The race started at 7:00 a.m., the winning team came in with a combined time of 40 minutes and 11 seconds.

On Christmas day, servicemembers had an opportunity to play in a three on three basketball tournament and watch Christmas movies like National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf.

The heart of all the Christmas events was the gift giving of about 250 gifts from Operation Care Package to all servicemembers, organized by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Mobely, radio talk operator and Morale, Welfare Recreation representative for Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, native from Valdosta, Ga.

“I organized these events to make everybody have a wonderful holiday, especially since I know it’s so hard being away from home,” said Mobely.“These events also kept me from the mindset of being alone.”

Another event that brought Christmas cheer to Kalagush was the choir of 12 servicmembers who sang during Christmas lunch and dinner. The choir director was, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, Robert Dailey, corpsman for Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, native from Rutherford, N.J.

“I wanted to see if I could bring the Christmas spirit to people and I wanted to bring a little slice of home to everyone here,” said Dailey. “I was very fortunate to have a lot of servicemembers who were willing to try and had a great deal of talent to sing for everyone.” 



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Servicemembers and civilians from on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, pose for a picture after the Icebreaker 10k Relay Race, Dec. 24. Kalagush celebrated the Christmas season with many fun events, like a relay run, basketball tournament, gift giving and carolling, Dec. 24 and 25.   




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Brent Howard from Albany, Ga., makes the winning shot for team one during the 3 on 3 basketball tournament on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 25. A total of six teams played against each other in which team one won the final game with a score of 11 to 4. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Christmas gifts from the organization Operation Care Packages organized by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis Mobely, radio talk operator and Morale, Welfare Recreation representative for Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, native from Valdosta, Ga. await to be handed out to servicemembers of Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 25. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan, U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class, Robert Dailey, corpsman for Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, native from Rutherford, N.J. directs the Kalagush Christmas Choir during Christmas lunch Dec. 25. A total of 12 servicemembers from Forward Opearating Base Kalagush sang in the choir. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

 
 

From Petty Officer to Ensign in 8000 miles and 200 Pieces of Paper

By: LTJG Michael A. Leach, NAVELSG Public Affairs Officer

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Two sailors assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG) forward JULIET team, and two Individual Augmentees (IA)want to join the ranks of the Navy Supply Officer Corps as ensigns.

Forward-deployed petty officers Jeffery Braun, Angelita Noche, Victoria Schutz, and Michael T. De Martin were encouraged by their commanding officers to submit individual direct commission officer packages because the responsibilities each petty officer is typically held by a lieutenant in the Supply Corps.

Following in the footsteps of her two brothers, Angelita Noche enlisted in 2002. Presently, she is the lead petty officer in a communications operations center at a forward base in Iraq where it is her responsibility to ensure that command personnel, visitors and guests are always accounted for. Having earned a college degree, the next logical step for Angelita was to pursue a Supply Corps commission. “Submitting my Supply Corps officer package has been very exciting for me.” says Noche. “Since my enlistment in 2002, I always thought about the opportunity to become a commissioned officer and didn’t realize it would come to fruition during my deployment,” said Noche.

Service has always been close to Petty Officer Second Class Michael T. De Martin’s heart. He volunteered for a deployment to Afghanistan where he serves as a leader for a Provincial Reconstruction Team. De Martin became an important member to his commanding officer and the Army first sergeant with whom he worked that he was encouraged to apply for the direct commission officer program. “I have wanted to submit an officer package for a long time, but I always allowed things to get in the way, but with the full support of my commanding officer in Afghanistan, now is the time” says De Martin.

When Petty Officer Second Class Jeffery Braun isn’t teaching criminal justice courses at night for Central Texas College on his assigned base in Afghanistan, he’s busy as the Supply NCOIC during the day. “I have been working on my direct commission officer package since August” says Braun. “Not surprisingly, it is quite difficult to complete such a task from several thousand miles away; however, the process has been going rather smoothly so far, more so than I expected.”

For Petty Officer First Class Victoria Schutz, life in Iraq couldn’t be busier. She is the lead petty officer of the Mobile Air Cargo Handling Team supervising several sailors in the delivery of supplies and high priority assault support requests throughout Iraq. In her civilian life, Schutz works as a detention officer for “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in Arizona. Schutz serves as a taser instructor, field training officer, and as a supply officer overseeing ordering of large quantities of food, clothing and other supplies for the county jail.

What is a Direct Commission Package for the Navy Reserve Supply Corps entail exactly? College transcripts; 26 pages of security clearance information; letters of recommendation; a personal mission statement of 500 words; two Supply Corps officer interviews from senior commanders or captains, which can be a challenge if you are 8000 miles away from the United States in Afghanistan or Kuwait; the Commission application; medical forms; identity paperwork, and countless other pieces of paperwork. As one can imagine, earning a direct commission is not an easy process.

Officer Program Recruiter, Lt. Cmdr. Tracy Bloomquist, herself a Reserve Supply Officer located in Syracuse, New York, is working closely with these Sailors to ensure their dreams of entering the commissioned ranks are realized.

Within a few months, all four sailors may be trading in their red chevrons for a single gold-bar and joining the proud tradition of the Navy Supply Officer Corps.

2-77 FA Commander Hosts Educational Shura

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Forsyth, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, hosted an education shura with Afghan government officials and teachers from all over eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province to discuss issues regarding the education system and ways to improve it, on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 15.

There are many problems facing Nuristan province’s education system, including a lack of government funding.

Classes are offered to students ranging from primary grades through high school, with males and females attending separate schools.

One district in the area faces the problem of having to join females and males in the same school, because there is not enough funding to build a separate girls’ school. Because of the mixture of the two genders, the government does not recognize a portion of the students, so the school does not receive the proper supplies or the funding needed to educate all of the students.

Another problem is educated, professional teachers often refuse to travel to the more dangerous areas in the province. This has resulted in a student to teacher ratio of 60 to 1 in some areas.

To add to the minimal amount of teachers in the province, some teachers do not show up because they are not getting paid, which causes headmasters to pay out of their own pockets.
Educational line directors, sub-governors, headmasters and teachers from various villages in
Nuristan met with Forsyth to explain these and other issues they face and how to solve them.

“We all met here to determine what their needs are as far as education in the local area,” Forsyth, a native of Mayfield, Ky., said. “Only the teachers themselves know what difficulties they all face, so meeting together can help us determine, as a whole, what the needs are before we can take that next step into progression.”

The shura unveiled the three main issues that need to be addressed.

The first is professionalism of the teachers. In order to complete that task, seminars will be scheduled and held on FOB Kalagush, beginning in the near future.

The second issue is teaching materials, which the International Security Assistance Forces hope to be able to provide.

The third is a lack of infrastructure, such as buildings in which to hold classes, power, water, and roads.

ISAF will be assisting the Afghans accomplish these goals, but it is going to take time, diligence, and cooperation between the Coalition Forces and the Afghan people.


NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Forsyth, from Mayfield, Ky., the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, addresses issues of the educational system with line directors and teachers from across eastern Afghanistan's Nuristan province on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 15. The meeting was held as a chance for the elders and teachers of the districts to speak on what is most important and what needs to be done, in order to improve the education of the children in Nuristan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

U.S. servicemembers team up to train ANP


Written by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins

Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs
NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. security forces servicemembers are hosting an eight-week training program on Forward operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 12, for Afghan National Police to help them build better tactical skills needed to provide security for eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province.
Nuristan PRT security forces and U.S. Marines will instruct in their areas of speciality, such as patrol techniques and hand-to-hand combat, while also building relationships with their ANP counterparts.
We are giving the ANP the skills [all] police officer should have,” said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Clifford Williams, the Nuristan PRT force protection non-commissioned officer-in-charge, from Grantspass, Ore. “If you want governance, security and stability in any area, you have to have a professional police force to provide that.”
The security forces team is training the ANP to get them ready for when they are on their own, so they can support themselves and any local crime that may occur when U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.
This experience – to be able to train the Afghan National Police – is very worthwhile,” Williams said. “With the surge of troops coming in, there will be more of us to be able to properly train them. I believe that having a professional police force is very important, and it should be all over Afghanistan.”
The training is held once a week, and leadership is trained first, so they can teach their subordinates what they have learned.
The ANP’s final task will be working side-by-side with U.S. servicemembers at the entry control point, to demonstrate they will be able to police themselves.


NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gilbert Lenz II, a Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team security forces member from Reno, Nev., teaches the local Afghan National Police hand and arm signals during an eight-week training course on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Dec. 12. The course is taught once a week to teach the ANP professional police skills, while building positive relations, which will benefit both ANP and U.S. forces. (Photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins, Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nuristan PRT makes first contact with remote village


By U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Servicemembers from the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team travelled a rugged, mountainous region near Forward Operating Base Kalagush to make their first contact with the remote ville of Kohe Taag, Dec. 19.

Kohe Tagg village is one of Kalagush’s closest and hardest to reach neighbors. This was the first time that the Nuristan PRT had ever visited the village, and only the second time the village had ever been visited by Coalition Forces.

Although the village was only 2 kilometres away, it took the Nuristan PRT two and half hours to climb over the rocky terrain and washes to get to the village.

While in the village, the Nuristan PRT met with Abdual Wahab, a villager closest to what many other villages would consider an elder or Malik. The civil affairs team was able to gather atmospherics on what their political views are, what their economy was like, and what they thought of Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition Forces.

U.S. Army Spc. Jason Dixon, a civil affairs specialist and native of Payson, Utah, explained the interaction between the PRT and the villagers.

“The village was small and the villagers were very opinionated,” he said. “They talked to us about corruption and politics even though the Afghan National Police were there, which is rare, because other villages would never be as honest as they were in front of the ANP.”

Even though Wahab and others had very strong opinions about the government, they were also the first villagers to say they are very proud of their Afghan security forces.

Mohammad Dadd, another villager, explained that they have seen ANP around the village, helping protect their way of life, and still doing their jobs even when they have to go without pay.

After much discussion about the role that the Coalition Forces play, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Russell McCormack, the commander for the Nuristan PRT and native of Hampstead, N.H., asked Wahab what the village needed.

Wahab said the village needed water storage and a clear footpath to get to other villages. As it stands now, it takes the villagers four hours, round-trip, to get to and from Nengarch, which is the nearest village.

The Nuristan PRT agreed to help build a water storage system and possibly create a clear pathway if a few villagers agreed to go to the concert class that the engineers on FOB Kalagush hold to teach locals vocational skills.

After attending a few classes, the villagers can get up to 50 bags of cement for their village. Once the village gets the cement, the Nuristan PRT will cover the rest of the cost for the water storage and possible footpath.


 
NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- A young boy looks on as servicemembers from the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team speak with villagers in the Kohe Tagg village, Dec. 19. The Nuristan PRT traversed a rugged region near Forward Operating Base Kalagush to make its first contact with the remote village. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) 



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Tauseef Mastafa, a photojournalist with the Agence-France Presse, embedded with the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team takes a photo of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Chappell, a corpsman from Bonne Terre, Mo., Dec. 19. The Nuristan PRT traversed a rugged region near Forward Operating Base Kalagush to make its first contact with the remote village Kohe Taag. (U.S. Air Force photo/2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) 

Thursday, December 17, 2009

US Embassy in Kabul connects with Nuristan


By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (December 14, 2009) – Anne Frej, a cultural affairs specialist from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, visited the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team to view potential locations for a Lincoln Center, Dec. 13.

Lincoln Centers are a partnership between the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy in Kabul and the Afghan government. The centers provide books, internet, and programming for the Afghan public free of charge. 

The centers hold events and activities such as author readings, film showings, speaker programs, workshops and meetings. Lincoln Centers also hold programs like English conversation clubs, internet courses, and speakers on Muslim life in America. 

Two potential sites were identified for the Nuristan Lincoln Center, a school in the Nengarach village and the Nurgurum District center.

If either site is suitable, the Lincoln Center will be fully funded by the U.S. embassy if the local government or district government will donate the space free of charge.

The local government must also pay the security staff. Once a location is established, the embassy will install all the computer equipment, stock the library and hire a staff to run the center. 

“Lincoln centers have been tremendously successful in both the east and north regions of Afghanistan, because they are a place where students go to gain access to a new world view,” said Kathryn Hoffman, foreign service officer for the Department of State. “The center also allows the PRT to do a lot of programming, like discussions on the meaning of elections and the role of women in society. We are really lucky that our Lincoln Center [will be] fully funded in the coming year.”

Lincoln Centers have been established in the major cities of Afghanistan, like Kabul, Herat and Jalalabad. In Kabul, there is a Lincoln Center at the Kabul University and there are also plans to place one in the women’s garden in Kabul.

“In some of the remote regions in Afghanistan there aren’t any internet cafés or even internet access, so the idea is to get into some of the more remote areas and create a place that provides students with English language programs, other types of programs and internet access,” Frej said. “Again, the program is about reaching out into the community, especially younger generations, and giving them a place to go and congregate to learn about American culture.”

In addition to looking at potential sites for the Lincoln Center and internet café, Frej also attended an educational shura to be held at Kalagush, Dec. 15.
She provided information on education and exchange programs offered by the U.S. State Department to students in Afghanistan including the Youth Exchange and Study program.

The YES program sponsors Afghan students visiting the U.S. who stay with a family and attend high school to learn English and the American culture for up to one academic year.  

Frej identified how this program has benefited Afghanistan.

“Some of the students who have returned from the U.S. on the YES program have actually come together and formed a group in Afghanistan to try to do things to better their local communities,” Frej said.

The U.S. Embassy plans on establishing at least ten more Lincoln Centers around Afghanistan before the end of 2010.

The time frame for the Lincoln Center to be opened in Nuristan would be approximately six months, but if a location is chosen during her visit, the center and café can be opened as soon as February 2010.



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- Anne Frej, a cultural affairs specialist for the U.S. embassy in Kabul; Kathryn Hoffman, foreign service officer for the Department of State; George Like, field project officer from U.S. Agency of International Development; and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lukas Haaglund, security force squad leader for the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, and native of Winnemucca, Nev., walk in the Nurguram District, Dec. 13. Nurguram is a possible location for a proposed Lincoln Center, to be provided by the U.S. Embassy. Lincoln Centers are a partnership between the public affairs section of the embassy in Kabul and the Afghan government that provide books, internet and programming for the Afghan public free of charge. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas Cinkovich, a native of Sparks, Nev., and security force team leader for the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, secures Nengarach village for the visit of Anne Frej, a cultural affairs specialist for the U.S. embassy, Dec. 13. Lincoln Centers are a partnership between the public affairs section of the embassy in Kabul and the Afghan government that provide books, internet, and programming for the Afghan public free of charge.  (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne)  

Warrior's of the Quater





Name: Travis Mobley
Branch: U.S. Navy
Rank: Petty Officer 3rd Class
Time in Service: 4 years in June
Military Occupational Specialist: Culinary Specialist
Home Station: San Diego
Hometown: Valdosta, Georgia
Why you earned Warrior of Quarter: I pushed the bar on my working limits.
Responsibilities for PRT Nuristan: Radio Talk Operator, Head Mail Master, Morale, Welfare Recreation representative
Best deployed experience so far for PRT Nuristan: Standing guard at the Observation Post Loyalty, because it was my first time in a camping environment. 





Name: David L. Starkey
Branch: U.S. Army
Rank: Sgt.
Time in Service: 6 years
Military Occupational Specialist: 19 D 2 P.
Home Station: Yerington, Nevada
Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Why you earned Warrior of the Quarter: Because I’m the best of the best.
Responsibilities for PRT Nuristan: SECFOR team leader, Motor Pool NCOIC, and Urine Analysis Assistant
Best deployed experience so far for PRT Nuristan: All the new friends I’ve met.

Nuristan PRT Provides Provincial Veterinary Ministry with vaccines


By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Dec. 15, 2009) - The Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team provided the Afghan Provincial Veterinary Ministry with thousands of veterinarian vaccines for local livestock in the Nurguram District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, Dec. 14 and 15.

Ray Lehn, the U.S. Department of Agricultural representative for the Nuristan PRT, , and native of Fairfield, Iowa, provided Abdula Qader, the Director of Veterinary Ministry for Nuristan, with veterinarian vaccines and supplies ordered by the last PRT to distribute among the villages that needed the vaccines the most.  

“There was some request for veterinarian support last spring when the people in Nuristan were having issues with their livestock contracting diseases like sheep pox,” Lehn said. “So, that was one of the reasons why we decided to keep the vaccines and have the Afghan Veterinary Ministry distribute them.” 

In the month of December, Qader will travel throughout the NurguramDistrict to ensure all 45 villages have the opportunity to receive vaccines for their livestock. 

So far, 44 families have been seen in the Nengarach, Malil and Wadow villages. If there are any vaccines left, Qader hopes to distribute them to families in the Do Ab District.

This is the first time that the people of Nuristan have been able to receive vaccinations for the livestock because the lack of road construction had made travelling to their villages too difficult.

“The vaccinations are a huge success and will be just as successful in the future if the PRT continues to support us,” Qader said. “In the past nobody has helped with our veterinarian needs, so we are very grateful.”

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One Last Salute for a Fallen Hero

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (December 8, 2009) – One hundred and sixty four servicemembers from Forward Operating Base Kalagush somberly stood side-by-side to render one last salute to their fallen comrade, 26-year-old U.S. Army Spc. Elijah Rao, from Lake Oswego, Ore., Dec. 5, who was killed by an improvised explosive device that day.

Rao was a meteorological specialist, but served as a rifleman and the “eyes and ears” of the intelligence shop while patrolling with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Steel.

“He had the ability to engage the people and gain the confidence of the people out there, because he was just that kind of guy that people felt comfortable approaching and talking to, even though he was a shy guy himself,” said U.S. 

Army Lt. Col. Michael Forsyth, 2nd Bn., 77th FA Regt. commander and native of Mayfield, Ky. “He took my dictum of treating everyone with dignity and respect very seriously, which he demonstrated on a daily basis.”

Servicemembers from the 2nd Bn., 77 FA Regt.; Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team; Military Police from 3rd Platoon, 984th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion; and Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-5 were among the ones to say goodbye. One by one, each servicemember waited for hours in the cold for an opportunity to render a single salute as fellow Soldiers walked past Rao’s remains. 

“On the battlefield, Rao was super efficient, although his job was that of a weatherman he had a knack for gathering intelligence, which was very helpful to the mission,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Riley, Rao’s platoon sergeant, and native of Clintontownship, Mich. “He was something special...he was an asset. When we were at key leader engagements and I would run out of gas, I would look to him to take the floor.”

Rao, who was boarded onto a UH-60 Black Hawk to start his journey back to the United States, where the dignified transfer of his remains will take place at Dover Air Force Base.

“He was dependable, he was a rock, and with him having previous combat experience, he was able to be a mentor for a lot of Soldiers in our platoon who were on their first deployment,” Riley said.  “He was more than just a peer to his team. He was someone that the lower enlisted looked up to.”

“Rao was the best our nation had to offer, he will be missed in the battalion,” Forsyth said. 



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- One hundred and sixty four servicemembers from Forward Operating Base Kalagush somberly stood side-by-side to render one last salute to their fallen comrade, U.S. Army Spc. Elijah Rao, from Lake Oswego, Ore., the night of Dec. 5. Rao, was killed in action by an improvised explosive device in Nuristan Province that same day. (U.S. Air Force/photo SrA Ashley Hawkins)  




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- U.S. Army Spc. Elijah Rao, a native of Lake Oswego, Ore., and meteorological specialist attached to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery maneuver platoon, “Nightmare”, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Steel, (right) and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Riley, the platoon sergeant for the Nightmare maneuver platoon, from Clintontownship, Mich., (left) stand with local villagers from the Parwii village, Aug. 9. Rao, was killed in action Dec. 5, by an improvised explosion device in Nuristan Province. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne)  



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan- A UH-60 Black Hawk carries the remains of U.S. Army Spc. Elijah Rao, a native of Lake Oswego, Ore., and meteorological specialist attached to the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery maneuver platoon, “Nightmare”, 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Steel, to Bagram Air Force Base the night of Dec. 5. Rao, was killed in action that day by an improvised explosion device in Nuristan Province. (U.S. Air Force/photo SrA Ashley Hawkins)  

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Nuristan PRT Corpsman connects with Dots

Photo by U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne
 
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs 





NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Dailey, a corpsman from Rutherford, N.J., of, shares his box of candy dots with a local village boy, Dec. 2. Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team conducted a key leader’s engagement with the village leaders of the Gambah village to discuss economic development. (U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Walking Hand in Hand



Courtesy Photo by: U.S. Army Spc. Michael Hahnebohm from the 3rd Platoon, 984th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion

Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team - Public Affairs






NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Todd Cellars, Squadron Leader for the 3rdPlatoon, 984th Military Police Company, 759th MP Battalion, from Warren, Ohio, walks hand in hand with a little girl in the Alingar District, Dec. 1. The 759th MP Battalion was conducting a key leader’s engagement and identifying the personal in the Afghanistan National Police in the local area. (U.S. Army/photo Spc. Michael Hahnebohm) (RELEASED)
 

Monday, November 30, 2009

Celebrating Eid and sports one volleyball game at a time

Photos by Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne

Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team - Public Affairs




091128-AF-2222C-062: NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Locals from the Lowkar and Dareng villages play in a volleyball tournament to celebrate Eid and to encourage children to play sports instead of doing drugs, Nov. 28. The volleyball tournament held in the Lowkar village had an attendance of about 200 people, featuring 32 teams made up from villagers from the Alingar and Nurgram districts. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)




091128-AF-2222C-111: NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Lt j. g. Stacy Gross, from Lakeville, Minn., the information operations officer for the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, speaks with Said Rahman, the chairman of architecture from Lowkar village, about future construction projects for the Alingar District during the volleyball tournament to celebrate Eid and to encourage children to play sports instead of doing drugs, Nov. 28. The volleyball tournament held in the Lowkar village had an attendance of about 200 people, featuring 32 teams made up from villagers from the Alingar and Nurgram Districts of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. The Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team provided Abdual Raqeeb, the event organizer from Nangarach, radios and volleyball to hand out during the five day tournament. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

NURISTAN PRT CIVIL AFFAIRS TEAM WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS OF AFGHAN PEOPLE

Story and photos by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team - Public Affairs


NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. servicemembers from the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team traveled to Forward Operating Base Blessing in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province to rebuild a connection with local Afghans.

“We were sent here to FOB Blessing to represent the central valley of Waygul and Wama,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John McGlocklin, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Nuristan civil affairs team at FOB Blessing. “Because the people here don’t always have the means to travel all the way to FOB Kalagush, they have easy accessibility to the PRT with us here.”


The civil affairs team has been at FOB Blessing since mid-July and is attempting to develop relations with the community by giving them the means to initiate small self-help projects, such as water canals and storage tanks for clean water and better overall sanitation conditions, according to U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Burgess, Nuristan PRT civil affairs specialist.



So far, 23 projects valued at more than $70,000 have been distributed throughout various villages across the Waygul and Wama area. PRT members believe a major reason Afghans join with the Taliban is the severe lack of money. Employing Afghans with self help projects gives them economic development and teaches them alternative avenues to make money other than farming.


“There are five major valleys in the northern portion of the Task Force Lethal Area of Operation, and the Afghanistan PRTs impact two of them…Kunar and Nuristan. The civil affairs team here interacts with the people much more and communicates with the sub-governor almost weekly. That’s very important,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Pearl, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Division commander at FOB Blessing. “They literally tie government and development together, from village, to district, to overall provincial level.”

When the local people saw Coalition Forces wanting to help, a spark ignited in them and they were more welcoming. Governors, village elders and shura leaders meet with the team often to discuss the progress of current village projects and the plans for future development in the area.


“We are the only ones here in this area,” McGlocklin said. “We need to remain accessible to the Nuristanis so they can receive the help they need from us.”

“The biggest thing is the interaction with village elders and local government in the Waygul and Wama valley,” Pearl said. “Once you empower the government, then you can reestablish relationship with the people. Without the PRT, the government and the community would be separate.”









NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin Brzezniak, left, from Matawan, N.J., and U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John McGlocklin from San Antonio, Texas, with the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, sit with Muhammad Osman, the sub-governor of the Waygul District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, and shura members during a meeting to discuss ongoing projects in the area, on Forward Operating Base Blessing, Nov. 18. Osman hires local Afghans to work on PRT-funded projects, and meets with the civil affairs team twice a week to request additional supplies for self-help projects. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




091120-F-7498H-025: NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A child from the Waygul District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province load bags of cement provided by the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team into a truck on Forward Operating Base Blessing, Nov. 20. Muhammad Osman, the sub-governor of the district, met with the civil affairs team two days prior to request additional supplies for self-help projects. Once he has a signed self-help project request form from the villagers, the form is sent to the PRT commander for funding and support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)


Nuristan PRT visits Alingar schools


Photos by SrA Ashley Hawkins
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team- Public Affairs

 


NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Spc. Jason Dixon Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team civil affairs team member, hands out a self help project request form to a boys' high school teacher while visiting and assessing literacy within the Alingar District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, Nov. 24. The PRT routinely visits local villages to promote education and literacy within the area, and help provide a stable economy for the people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Teachers of the girls' high school show text books and daily lessons to the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, while team members visited and handed out self-help project request forms to the villagers of the Alingar District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, Nov. 24. The PRT routinely visits local villages to promote education and literacy within the area, and help provide a stable economy for the people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Servicemembers from the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team talk with the girls' high school teachers while visiting and handing out self-help project request forms to the villagers of the Alingar District of eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, Nov. 24. The PRT routinely visits local villages to promote education and literacy within the area, and help provide a stable economy for the people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Sgt. David Starkey with the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team security force guards a classroom while the team talks with teachers of the Alingar District girls' high school in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, Nov. 24. The PRT routinely visits local villages to promote education and literacy within the area, and help provide a stable economy for the people. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)



Saturday, November 28, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

From all the servicemembers at Kalagush, happy Thanksgiving and we wish we could have celebrated with our loved ones.



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Erik Nerdalen, from Hicksville, N.Y., carves a turkey before serving Thanksgiving dinner to civilians and troops on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Nov. 26. It is the 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment's tradition for senior non-commissioned officers and officers to serve their Soldiers during the holiday season to show their appreciation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins)




(U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)



(U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

 

(U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

 

(U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)



Monday, November 23, 2009

Nuristan PRT battles H1N1 misinformation

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team servicemembers took to the airways, Nov. 19, to combat misinformation put out by anti-Afghan forces about the growing H1N1 flu virus epidemic in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province. U.S. Navy Lt.  Jennifer Dreiling, from

McLean, Va., the senior medical officer, and U.S. Navy Lt j. g. Stacy Gross, from Lakeville, MN, the information operations officer for the PRT broadcasted the public health messages about the virus on Radio Kalagush, a U.S.-funded Afghan radio station that broadcasts from Forward Operating Base Kalagush. 

According to Gross, the messages informed people how to react to the common cold or H1N1, signs and symptoms, and what to do if they suspect they have H1N1.

AAF in Nuristan province have been spreading misinformation on how the H1N1 is contracted and where it comes from.

 “Part of the aim of the messages themselves is to dispel those rumors like you can contract the disease by eating pork or that H1N1 was brought to Afghanistan and spread by Coalition Forces,” Dreiling said.

According to Gross and Dreiling, every radio message that Nuristan PRT puts out with useful information about the virus, is another opportunity to take power away from the enemy’s information campaign.

Dreiling felt that the radio messages were successful because, “the radio messages makes the people feel like they have control of their own situation, and it’s empowering for them to know what’s going on around them.”

The Nuristan PRT releases public health radio messages at least once a week, and the radio stations replays them throughout the week.




NURISTAN, PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Navy Lt.  Jennifer Dreiling, from McLean, Va., senior medical officer for the Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team, records a radio message on Radio Kalagush, a U.S.-funded Afghan radio station that broadcasts from Forward Operating Base Kalagush, in eastern Afghanistan’s Nuristan province, educating locals about the H1N1 flu virus, Nov. 19. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

Martin Specht, Focus Photography

Thank you Martin for telling our story. For more pictures taken by Martin Specht go to our facebook page!



 

 

 

Thanks again Martin :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

PRT Nuristan Congratulates Newly Promoted Servicemembers and Award winners





NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – (From left-right) Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, congratulate newly promoted servicemembers  Air Force, SrA  Destiney Dowdy, an Aerospace Medical Journeymen, from Russellville, Arkansas and Army Sgt. Joel Myers, Infantry, from San Antonio, Texas, November 13. (U.S. Air Force photo/ 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)




NURISTAN, PROVINCE, Afghanistan - (From right-left) Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan, congratulate award winners of the Army Achievement medal, Navy, OS1 Kathleen Leach, from Smithfield, Rhode Island, and Navy, HM2 Robert Dailey, from Rutherford, New Jersey, November 13. The Army Achievement Medal is awarded only in a combat area of operation, for distinguishing oneself by meritorious service or achievement. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)




NURISTAN, PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Provincial Reconstruction Team Nuristan congratulate both newly promoted servicemembers and award winners of the Army Achievement Medal, November 13.  (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Marine Corps ETT partner with 2-77 Field Artillery Steel Warriors to train ANA in artillery

By U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne
Nuristan Provincial Reconstruction Team Public Affairs

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Forward Operating Base Kalagush’s Marine Corps Embedded Training Team 5-5 along with Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Steel, teamed up to train Afghan National Army Soldiers on the D-30 122mm Russian howitzer, Nov. 11.

“The ANA do artillery training five times a week, along with infantry tactics and they conduct patrols to show locals that they have a government presence within their area,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Bradley Brill, the team’s leader, and Sitka, Alaska native.

The artillerymen were firing at a site used by anti-Afghanistan forces to launch attacks on FOB Kalagush. It was the first time the ANA were firing a counter-fire operational mission.

“I have taken it on as my personal mission to ensure these men of the ANA are capable of doing independent firing operations,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Forsyth, 2nd Bn., 77th FA Regt. commander and Mayfield, Ky. native.

The ANA went through a seven-week certification program, similar to the training that U.S. Army artillerymen receive to be certified on their weapons.

“If we can’t get them operating independently and have them do their job without us, then we’re failing our mission,” Forsyth said. “Part of our combined action plan for them is to become sound, confident artillerymen and have the ability to secure their nation.”

Once the ANA finished the certification process, the Marines and the Soldiers hopes heightened that they will be able to do their own firing missions and man their weapons 24 hours-a-day, like the Coalition Forces on FOB Kalagush do.


NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Marine Sgt. Joshua Winans, from Utica, Ohio, observes as a member of the Afghan National Army verifies the coordinates of the sector of fire before loading and firing off 122mm artillery shells from a Delta 30 howitzer on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Nov. 11. The ANA were conducting a mission to shoot out a point of origin the anti-Afghan forces were using to set up rocket attacks on the FOB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins) (RELEASED)



NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines with the Embedded Training Team show members of the Afghan National Army how to properly load and fire 122mm Russian artillery shells from a Delta 30 howitzer on Forward Operating Base Kalagush, Nov. 11. The ANA were conducting a mission to shoot out a point of origin the anti-Afghan forces were using to set up rocket attacks on the FOB. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley Hawkins) (RELEASED)

Happy 234th Birthday Day Uinted States Marine Corps

By Air Force 2nd Lt. Natassia Cherne

Provincial Reconstruction Team-Nuristan- Public Affairs

FOB KALA GUSH, Afghanistan Kala Gush Marines celebrated the Marine Corps  234th birthday with fellow their fellow Marines in Meterlam with cake, laughter, and reflection of the USMC history, November 10. 




Marine Corps, Gunnery Sgt. Judah Crawford, 1st Lt. Bradley Brill, and Sgt. Joshua Winans, pose for a picture at the Marine Corps 234th Birthday in Meterlam, November 10. The Marines are with the Regional Corps Advisory Command Central, a part of the embedded training for the Afghanistan National Army, deployed on Forward Operating Base Kalagush. (U.S. Air Force/photo 2nd Lt Natassia Cherne) (RELEASED)