Friday, April 13, 2007

Relief in the wake of the Flood

After about a week's worth of deliberate planning and organization, a team of the Training Assistance Group worked this week to provide some much needed relief to the victims of the first flood in fifteen years here in Kabul. Cleared by a local Chief of Police of District, we were able to assist 100 vetted families with their basic needs.

We departed in the afternoon, departing in several movements to get to our distribution site. Near to the Kabul Stadium where less than six years ago, the Taliban routinely and publicly executed women and men they had deemed uncommited to their cause, we set up our security and our distribution point as we had planned it. The operation was actually planned by our JAG and our intelligence officer, Capt. Scott Delius, of Atlanta, and Maj. Steve McLay, of Corvallis, respectively. Steve had coordianted with local police chiefs to properly vet out those that were in the most dire need. When we arrived, the Afghan Military Police security team, mentored by fellow Oregon National Guardsman, Maj. Chris Graves, had cleared the parking lot and cordoned off an area for our trucks to set up for the distribution of supplies. In one truck, we had bags of clothing. In another, we had bags of cooking basics, oil, salt and dehydrated milk. In the final truck was the big Hefty-sized bags of rice, flour and sugar. The unfortunate part of that was that these bags weighed about fifty to sixty pounds each and we were distributing them to families that were mostly women, old men and young children as most of the able bodied men were either at work or looking for work. Thus, we carried the bags for the citizens from the truck to the end of our distribution point, approximately 50 meters from the back of the truck. While it was a U.S. planned event the real heroes were the Afghan National Army Military Police and the Afghan Police Officers of the downtown district, as they were the ones that established the security, helped to hand out the supplies and managed the victims of the flood.

As this was downtown Kabul and an area of potential threat activity, we were fully armored at all times, a point I only mention because it was about 85 degree Farenheit that afternoon, a sign of things to come this summer and did we ever sweat...?!! It was a cooker. After the final truck, we laid out a collection of other supplies within a flannel blanket. A shovel head, a hammer, a saw, work gloves, a tarp, and a shovel handle (wooden pole). It made for a serious load of kit to cart away across the open Buzkhashi Stadium for certain. That said, we made it as easy as we could to those that needed relief the most.

Within an hour and a half, we had distributed over eight tons of food, clothing, shelter and supplies to help victims of the worst flooding in Kabul in the past fifteen years.

Most impressive to me was the ten year old boy leading a blind man through the distribution points. He carried each of the small bags himself, he led his father or uncle (it was unclear) to each point. At the final, before loading the sixty pounder myself, I wrapped up a bag with the supplies and handed them to the blind man. Cloudy blind eyes staring into the distance belied the joy he seemed to feel. He muttered something quietly in Pashto. The boy then said to me, "He say thank you, America Friend."

We made a difference and that is what we are here for.

From Kabul,

-out here

photos by Tech Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo and 1st Sgt. Don Weber


Blogger MarineMom said...

Hi Major Strong,

Glad to see you are still holding things together and blogging with the best of them!

I would like to add a link to you from my blog if that's okay. Make it easier for me to keep up with yours!

thanks for everything you do.

Tami B (MarineMom)

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found your blog after enjoying your contribution to Dwell Magazine (May 2007). Though you discuss your shipping container home as an invention of ephemeral necessity amidst a war zone, more peaceful, developed lands -- most U.S. suburban tracts come to mind -- could learn about the virtues of sustainability and modularity from your example. Thank you for your service, and best of luck!

9:04 PM  

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