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Patriotic Article
Noble Efforts

By Army Spc. Albert Kelley

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A Soldier's Promise Fulfilled
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August 27, 2010 -- With tears forming in her eyes and voice shaking, U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Olcott stood before a crowd of homeless Afghan children, Aug. 14, prepared to fulfill a seven-month endeavor.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Olcott, of Daytona Beach, Fla., a flight missions planner with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Lighthorse, poses with children after she donated two boxes of school supplies to them, August 14, 2010. The children were living in an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in the Beshood District of eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. Olcott received donations from the Matthew Freeman Foundation, the Adopt-A-Soldier program and Olcott's own non-profit foundation, Operation New Start.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Olcott, of Daytona Beach, Fla., a flight missions planner with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Lighthorse, poses with children after she donated two boxes of school supplies to them, August 14, 2010. The children were living in an Internally Displaced Persons Camp in the Beshood District of eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province. Olcott received donations from the Matthew Freeman Foundation, the Adopt-A-Soldier program and Olcott's own non-profit foundation, Operation New Start.
 Before deploying to Afghanistan, Olcott, from Daytona Beach, Fla., a flight mission planner with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Lighthorse, made a commitment to her children.

“I made my children a promise,” said Olcott. “I made it before I went to Iraq as well, that I would do something for the children in that country. I didn't know how but I was determined to do it.”

Olcott learned of the dire need for school supplies while handing out Beanie Babies to Afghan children on Forward Operating Base Fenty during Christmas 2009.

“These children really wanted to learn,” said Olcott. “They especially wanted to learn English. So I started e-mailing friends and family back home telling them I could
use some school supplies.”
Friends and family responded immediately by sending various types of school supplies. In addition, the 3rd Infantry Division's Adopt-A-Soldier program coordinator offered to send additional items to Olcott.

Through a reporter named Michael Jordan, who was filming a documentary on 3rd Infantry Division, Olcott was able to secure two large green tough boxes full of supplies from the Matthew Freeman Foundation, named for U.S. Marine Capt. Mathew Freeman, of Richmond, Ga. Freeman was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. He also shared a passion to provide school supplies to the children of Afghanistan.

With items now coming in from the Mathew Freeman Foundation, the Adopt-A-Soldier program and Olcot's own nonprofit organization, Operation New Start, Olcott soon had a large container full of clothing, toys, formula, bottles, toiletries, toothbrushes, shoes, coloring books and more.

Eventually, a civil affairs company was assigned to locate an appropriate village in which Olcott could personally distribute her donated items.

U.S. Army Capt. Glenn T. Battshinger, of Mays Landing, N.J., a civil affairs operations center leader with the 404th Civil Affairs Battalion, Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team, knew just the villagers that could use the supplies.

“A pencil gives a child hope,” said Battschinger. “A notebook gives them the ability to keep a written record of their hope. Education is the only way Afghanistan will get out of its hole.”

Barely a month ago, these villagers lost their homes during regional flash flooding and now were living in an internally displaced persons camp in Nangarhar.

As Olcott prepared to hand out the supplies, she became visibly overwhelmed by the moment.

“I broke down,” said Olcott. “Wow, I'm really here. These kids really do need help. They are the future of Afghanistan.”

Back at FOB Fenty, Olcott has also done whatever she can to help children and the adults alike. After working her 10-hour overnight shift, she can often be found at the local bread store donating food supplies, which led to the introduction of pizza by the bread maker.

She has also donated baby supplies to local hospitals and toiletries to Afghan Soldiers stationed on FOB Fenty.

“This experience in Afghanistan has been one of the most memorable in my career and my life,” said Olcott. “Just being able to save someone is probably the most amazing feeling.”

Article and photo by Army Spc. Albert Kelley
Combined Joint Task Force 101
Copyright 2010

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