January 22, 2018

Lessons from Pakistan to U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

ClassroomGreg Mortenson's been building schools for girls in Pakistan for over 17 years and founded the Central Asia Institute CAI in 1996 after living in Pakistan for three years and seeing the difficulties facing girls who had no chance at good education.

145 schools have been built and 64,000 students have improved their education standards from haphazard lessons in outdoor classrooms with dirt and stick chalkboards into real schools with qualified teachers.

For CAI students, snow and sleet won't deter them but heat, night, rugged mountains, roadside bombs, occupying troops and insurgents might.

The unparalleled success is attributed to the locals in each of the 145 communities that support a school. Projects anywhere can only be successful this way says Mortenson.

The only way to discover locals' ideas and help them manage a project is to sit down and have a cup of tea (or three) and listen which is the title of Mortenson's first book "Three cups of Tea".

Three cups of Tea as well as Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan has become a field guide for troops' counterinsurgency efforts.  Throughout war torn areas and rugged terrain from Afghanistan and Pakistan girls are still denied educations.

Mortenson and CAI will keep climbing towards the elusive peak this is education and empowerment for all.

Afghanistan’s Most Dangerous Job: Finding IEDs

Bomb SearchingRoadside bombs killed 20 coalition troops in 2005. The explosive devices called IEDs is now ten times  higher and account for about 60% of all fatalities in the U.S. military.  Elite teams of experts are needed to locate and defuse the hidden bombs. Marine units have already found 40 IEDs mined by the Taliban inside the town of Safar Bazaar.

Bomb disposal experts known as Explosive Ordnance Disposal EOD team face harrowing danger every day. In moments after a bomb last, Marines run with stretchers to help their fallen comrades while one, less seriously wounded, manages to walk out.

Corporal Daniel Greer of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion suffered a serious brain injury which later claimed his life. It is not uncommon for bomb explosives disposal experts such as Sgt. Johnny Jones to lose both his legs while Staff sgt. Eric Chir suffers serious shrapnel wounds.

Greer's job as an engineer was to open up safe routes for other Marines to travel along by blasting holes in walls to avoid possible booby-traps. The work is slow and meticulous as Marines walk along narrow paths which have been cleared. Going on foot is always the last resort. When possible they use robots and explosives from a distance.

And you often wonder: How does one react to something like this? The Marines will continue to press forward because that is what they do. "It's nobody's fault, you know, that's just how it happens" says Sgt. Matthew Jackson of 1st EOD Company.

On the outside, they hang tough. On the inside, the hurt is growing.