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May 01, 2006

News too boring for the MSM.

...but important to have a more balanced understanding of what's going on.

Paktika School Opening, photo courtesy CENTCOM Public Affairs

New school opens in Paktika Province

By Army Sgt. Tim Sander, 345th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan – Soldiers, Afghan officials and Afghan school children celebrated the opening of a new school at a ribbon-cutting ceremony held in Paktika Province on April 23.

The eight-room school, designed to support 150 to 250 students of all ages, is staffed by teachers selected by the government of Afghanistan, said Army Lt. Col. Chris Toner, Task Force Catamount commander.

TF Catamount, comprised of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment from Fort Drum, N.Y., as well as Airmen and Sailors, participated in the event.

“As a teacher, I am honored to be here today to open a school,” said Army Lt. Col. Janet Loefstedt, Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team commander, to the local leaders. “I saw your children lining the road as I came into Charbaran and thought this school would get much use.”

The villagers of Charbaran listened attentively to the colonel’s words as they were translated to them.

“It also made me think we have a great deal of unfinished work (because) we do not need just primary schools, but secondary schools, and clearly, we do not need just one school, but many schools,” Loefstedt said. “I tell you this: Every word your children learns to read, every number they learn to add, every bit of knowledge they gain from this school is progress.”

To close her speech, Loefstedt placed her hand over her heart, a local gesture of friendship, and spoke in the language of the villagers surrounding her. “Manana,” she said, which means ‘thank you’ in Pashtu.

Following the speeches and celebratory song and dance, the crowd of Soldiers, elders and children strolled through the peaceful village toward the new school building.

The governor of Paktika Province , Dr. Akram Khpalwak, stood at the entrance of the red brick building holding a pair of scissors in his hand. After a quick “snip,” the school was officially open for learning and a swarm of anxious children surged through the single hall for the first time to inspect their new classrooms.

The Catamount Soldiers handed out notepads, pens and backpacks before beginning the three-hour return journey through the rugged mountain pass back to Forward Operating Base Orgun-E.

“It is my job to support your governor … to enact a vision of reconstruction (in Paktika Province ),” Loefstedt said. “I want to assure you that I will continue to work with your governor and your government to be the best possible provincial reconstruction team for Paktika Province , and I look forward to many more visits to Charbaran.”

The Catamount Soldiers handed out notepads, pens and backpacks before beginning the three-hour return journey through the rugged mountain pass back to Forward Operating Base Orgun-E.

My Rotary Club provided supplies like this to Civil Affairs guys in Iraq. This year, the Junction City club will be coordinating a similar effort involving school kids in the Fort Riley area, to provide these supplies to the soldiers of the Fort Riley brigade deploying to Iraq. While tens of thousands march against the war in NYC and go back to their lattes and internet cafes, tens of thousands across the country do their little bit to try to make it work, spending their time, energy, and money trying to make things better in Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than just abandon it to bloodthirsty brigands.