Nebraska National Guard helps build a nation in Afghanistan


April 4th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – For some of the several hundred Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers currently deployed to Afghanistan, war fighting means building schools and delivering food.

For National Guard soldiers in Afghanistan, the war means not only providing security, but building schools and delivering food (Photo courtesy Wikimedia, credit U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dallas Edwards)

Sgt. 1st Class Steve Brewer was recently involved in a major mission. Three days…a convoy of six trucks and five armored Humvees…a 30 mile round-trip to mud hut villages on the desolate ground outside Afghanistan’s capitol city of Kabul: a long, rough drive on bad roads where roadside bombs are a concern. But for Brewer and his fellow Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers from the 1st squadron of the 134th Cavalry, the mission and their cargo were worth the effort.

“It was about right around 50 to 60,000 pounds of food and clothing,” Brewer said in a recent telephone interview. “It was set up for four villages out there. Two of the villages had never seen American forces since … we’ve been here for 11 years. They’ve never seen help.”

The Cavalry has been involved with projects like this since arriving in Afghanistan last November. They come in two different forms. Capt. Jeremy Szynskie of Omaha helps manage both.

“One is CERP, the commander’s emergency response program,” Czynski said. “And within that, we have the construction program where we can build schools, wells, renovate schools, build security walls or roads to help the civilian population.”

“And then the other side of it is the humanitarian assistance… food, clothing, and household items such as tarps, even coal stoves, soccer balls, some of those types of things.”

It’s a multi-million dollar, U.S. government funded endeavor. Right now, Nebraska soldiers are managing about 30 of the emergency construction projects, as well as several humanitarian efforts. This is not the main mission for the Nebraska soldiers in Afghanistan. Their primary job is mentoring Afghan police and other security forces. But Szynskie said it’s important for the Army to be involved in this other aspect of rebuilding the war-torn country.

“People that are more educated, people that have food available or have access to clean water are much more likely to … turn towards the legitimate government of Afghanistan for assistance,” he said, “and less likely to turn towards the enemy for assistance.”

“Our situation is much more friendly towards us, and the security situation is improved.”

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