a Village: Airman Provide Humanitarian Relief
Tech. Sgt. Brian Davidson
455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs
BASE, Afghanistan (AFPN) — An adolescent Afghan girl watched
protectively over a group of small children as they looked for
winter clothing amidst a pile of boxes containing humanitarian
relief supplies. As crowds of people from neighboring villages
pressed their way forward, the girl stood her ground and pushed
people back from the children.
The supplies were delivered
to Jangadam Village on Dec. 31 by 455th Expeditionary Operations
Group airmen as part of their "Adopt a Village" program.
A village elder showed
Lt. Col. John Bernier, 455th Air Expeditionary Wing flight safety
officer, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Sydnor, 455th AEW command
chief, the village water supply, a small, stagnant pond of brackish
water that sits in the center of town. Surrounding the pond were
crumbling, mud brick buildings that serve as a reminder of the
strife and poverty that can still be found throughout Afghanistan.
On one edge of the
village, Staff Sgt. Crystal Whittaker, a 455th EOG security forces
specialist, took up a security position to protect airmen who
were delivering the supplies. In contrast, just a few feet from
Whittaker, village women, covered head to toe in their blue burkas,
cowered behind the wreckage of an old, burned-out Soviet military
truck, trying to hide from view of the men.
Sheep, cows and chickens
ran free around the village. Men serving as self-appointed village
security stood nearby with their AK-47s, doing little more than
talking and smoking as the crowd of villagers grew.
The mood was tense
among the airmen unloading supplies as people began to tear at
the boxes. Security forces airmen kept the situation from getting
out of hand to ensure the supplies went to the intended recipients.
"It was a bittersweet
experience to say the least," Sydnor said. "On the one
hand we are proud as Americans to provide assistance to the less
fortunate, because that’s part of our nature. But it also saddens
us because of the poverty and conditions these fellow human beings
live under. To see people so desperate for things that we take
for granted is very humbling."
The airmen of the 455th
EOG are deployed to Afghanistan on a mission to engage and capture
terrorists, and to significantly reduce the chance for future
attacks on America and the rest of the world. They are also here
to provide an environment of peace and stability and to help the
Afghan people grow, prosper and be free.
The Adopt a Village
program is aimed at this second mission.
Airmen here collect
clothing, school supplies, basic food and household items donated
from families, churches and civic organizations back home, and
then travel throughout the region to make their deliveries.
Providing this humanitarian
aid is not without risk. Airmen must wear body armor and travel
in convoys with armored vehicles and heavy guns, as they make
their way along muddy narrow roadways surrounded by minefields.
was a little apprehensive about going (off base), but I was put
more at ease when I saw the smiles and received the handshakes
and well wishes from the villagers," Sydnor said. "I
only wish the media at home placed more emphasis on the great
things American military members are doing over here. The people
I encountered today were not terrorists but human beings searching
for happiness and peace in their lives