A Different Kind Of Mission

On this mission, these soldiers don't need weapons of war.

Instead they opt for weapons of good deeds.

"They go out and blow stuff up; and we go out and fix things that shouldn't be destroyed in the first place," says specialist Hillard Hill.

They're from the U.S. military's Civil Affairs or C.A. unit, helping to rebuild Afghanistan, in some of the same places decimated just 8 months ago by some of the heaviest bombing since desert storm.

"Our job basically is to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people here," says Sgt. First Class Larry More of U.S. Army Civil Affairs.

It's the same phrase and a similar strategy used three decades ago, by another generation in a war in another country: Vietnam. It too was a nation torn apart by decades of fighting. Back then America's military withdrew before civil affairs soldiers could complete the rebuilding effort. And the term 'hearts and minds' became synonymous with failure.

"At C.A. school, we're told not to use those words, we're just supposed to make friends and allies," explains Hill.

And that means delivering lumber to a school, distributing toys to children, and basically showing Afghans a kinder, gentler American.

"He says that we need the U.S. to help to bring peace to our country and also to rebuild the country," says Sayed Yahyq, an Afghan teacher.

The U.S., in consultation with local leaders, focuses on high impact projects, such as digging wells and repairing roads, schools and health clinics. The army has $7 million dollars set aside for humanitarian programs.

One of the largest projects, so far, is a bridge on the Bagram Highway. It not only provided a desperately needed road link, but it also meant creating jobs in one of the poorest nations in the world.

Contractor Ahmad Shah and his men built the bridge.

"I hope all our people, including my family, they will be doing reconstruction to build our country," says Shah.

But it is apparent that after more than 2 decades of destruction, Afghanistan and the civil affairs unit have much work to do.
  • Sue Chan

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