Written by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan – Afghan truck drivers loaded their vehicles this past week with much-needed supplies from the Bagram Air Field Humanitarian Assistance Yard to support a humanitarian aid mission in Regional Command North.
The 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, spear-headed the relief effort to provide rice, beans, flour, cooking oil, coal, tarps, prayer rugs and hygiene for the villagers in the town of Sar –E Pol, located in the Balkh province, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Tychicious Turner, non-commissioned officer in charge for the Bagram Humanitarian Assistance Yard.The relief effort is part of the Commanders Emergency Relief Program, a program designed to have a positive, immediate effect on the local population. Such relief efforts are an integral part in International Security Assistance Force Commander Gen. David Petraeus’ Counter –Insurgency strategy to “win the hearts and minds” of the Afghan population – a strategy not lost on the Mavericks battalion.
“Since we’ve transitioned from a very straightforward ‘us vs. them’ campaign, we’ve come to realize that the human terrain is just as important as the physical terrain,” said 2nd Lt. Donovan Sullivan, supply and services officer, 142nd CSSB, 101st Sus. Bde. “In providing that humanitarian relief effort where we can, we’re proving to the people that your welfare is important to us.”
Turner said the battalion worked with the 170th Sustainment Brigade to provide support for the villagers whose food and water supply had suffered during a drought which caused a shortage of crops.
“A request was put in that there were roughly 30,000 people starving out there in need of food, supply and some clothing items,” said.
The battalion sent more than 650,000 pounds of supplies to the villagers, Turner said. The supplies – valued at $1.1 million U.S. dollars-were enough to support the population of a small Midwestern or Southern town in the states, he said.
Sullivan said ensuring that the villagers had ample food and water was a top priority in the relief mission.
“That’s what gets damaged very quickly. There’s not a lot of fresh water supply here and what food is here can spoil or damaged very quickly, so that’s what needs to be replaced,” he said. “Once the immediate needs are addressed, we can start working on re-building or improving on the infrastructure if we can.”
Sullivan said while geographically the Humanitarian Assistance Yard is a small mission, its impact on the region is not.
“The command is very big on it, and they definitely place it as a high priority,” he said. “The transition to the ‘hearts and mind’ mindset makes the people of Afghanistan very important in a way that they have not been before. Keeping that in mind, the battalion is very big on expanding this effort and improving our relationship with the yard.”
Lt. Col. Jose Solis, commander of the 142nd CSSB, said the battalion is proud of the current partnership with the Bagram Air Field Humanitarian Assistance Team, whose mission is to simply support and reinforce the principle of the equal worth of every human being.
“We are working together aimed at reaching the common goal of a better future for the citizens of Afghanistan,” Solis said.
Sullivan also said the battalion’s humanitarian mission is not just confined to the yard. “It’s something we make an effort toward every time we deal with the Afghans,” he said.
“A lot of the truckers and interpreters have complained in the past that when they go out on convoys with some of the units they weren’t always treated well. The colonel has put out firm guidance that they are to be treated as we want to be treated. It’s one thing to say we support the Afghan people, but we have to put our words into action. That’s what he’s driving for.”
(Editor’s Note: Cpl. Sarah Keegan, a Unit Public Affairs Representative for the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, contributed to the article.)