Aviators Answer Afghan Teacher's Call For Help
(January 24, 2010)
|BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2010 – Army Sgt.
Matthew West said he didn't know what to think when a rock
came flying at him while guarding his Black Hawk helicopter
at a landing zone on Camp Kiwi in central Afghanistan's
|Army Sgt. Matthew West removes boxes of supplies from the back of a Black Hawk helicopter to be delivered to schools in and around Bamyan province in Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2010.
“Children throwing rocks isn't unexpected out here,” said
West, a crew chief with the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade's
Company A, Task Force Knighthawk. “You never know what
people really think of you out here so I just assumed it was
another kid taunting us.”
But this kind of rock throwing was different; the rock had a
note attached to it. The note indicated that the boy taught
an English class in Bamyan province. The child, who spoke
excellent English, was requesting school supplies to help
him teach his class.
“His English was really good and I thought, ‘Why not help a
kid who wants to educate others?'” West said. “It's part of
the whole ‘winning the hearts and minds of the people of
Afghanistan,' and what better way to win the minds than by
educating them? So, when [our flight] got back to Bagram, I
talked it over with some of the guys in my company and we
decided we wanted to help them.”
One of the soldiers West talked to was Army Spc. Sean
Noonan, also a crew chief in Company A, Task Force
Knighthawk. Noonan took the lead on the project, gathering
school supplies, clothing and candy, to donate to the Afghan
people in Bamyan. Three weeks later, they had enough boxes
to fill the back of a Black Hawk. They began planning a
mission to return to Bamyan.
“When I heard West talking about what happened ... I just
felt like we should do something to help them,” Noonan said.
“I think a lot of the time, as soldiers, we get carried away
with performing the combat portion of our mission. I think
it's good to remember we're also here to help the Afghan
people – and in this case, we can help their children
receive a good education, or at least give them the supplies
to continue their education.”
When the two Black Hawks landed at Camp Kiwi on Jan. 13, the
temperature read minus 10 degrees. The air crews moved the
supplies from the back of their aircraft to a large storage
container belonging to Padre Leon O'Flynn, chaplain with the
New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team.
“There's a girls school here that has 2,000 students and a
boys school that has more than 3,000 students,” O'Flynn
said. “These supplies will go far to help them. There's
nothing they don't need or won't use. The school supplies
and clothing will be gone quickly. We try to get to the more
remote villages too. Every little bit we receive helps.”
Though the soldiers didn't have the opportunity to hand out
the supplies personally, before leaving Camp Kiwi, they took
time to talk with the children who live in Bamyan. One
teenager, 18-year-old Qugamali, who also teaches English
classes in Bamyan, said they are learning in school about
Japan and how the United States helped Japan recover after
World War II.
“Right now, Afghanistan is backwards, but maybe we can be
like Japan,” Qugamali said. “The Americans come in and help
us become secure. The Taliban can't make Afghanistan
Noonan said he was surprised at the quality of Qugamali's
English as they continued to talk. But what was more
surprising, he said, was the students' comprehension of what
is going on in their country.
“I know education here isn't what it is back in the states,
so I was surprised to hear him make the comparison between
what we're doing here to what we did in Japan,” Noonan said.
“It's good to know that the people here, even if they're
children, understand that in the end, we're here to help
As Noonan and Qugamali continued to talk, Qugamali said he
wants to become a journalist.
“To be a journalist in the future you must know three
languages,” Qugamali said. “If we have the [school
supplies], we can learn. Otherwise, it is very hard for us
to learn. It is good that we have help.”
Article and photo by
Army Spc. Monica K. Smith
3rd Combat Aviation Brigade public affairs
American Forces Press Service
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