Case of a Mistaken Village

Now that our mission is over, I will reveal what I couldn’t yesterday about the potential of being the biggest blunder of my deployment.  It took some real finesse and some sheer luck to resolve the situation.

Some 173rd teammates and I joined forces with G Company, 186 BSB and our mission was to perform a reconnaissance mission on a village.  I have been working on this project for several weeks and now it was coming to fruition.   Previously I had targeted a village school to deliver school supplies to.    It sounds simple, but it’s a very tedious process and involves a lot of coordination, logistics, analysis, and planning.  After all the atmospherics are completed and layers of bureaucracy of approval are granted, the next step is to meet with the appropriate village personnel and establish a date for delivery.

Bumpy road leading back to school.

We drove down a bumpy road to get to the quaint village which was nestled in the foothills of the towering mountains seen off in the distance.  Most of the homes were simple and crudely constructed of mud brick and part of the road was lined with green leafy trees.  I saw some power lines too.  This was an indication part of the village enjoyed electricity.  We also drove past some wandering scraggly sheep and cows, which is typical in almost any Afghan village.  As we passed by, the citizens watched us and the children were fixated on our armored vehicles mounted with lethal crew serve weapons.

Exterior of the village school building.

Our convoy pulled up next to the school and our dismounts were taking notes of the surrounding terrain and village dwellings.  Since it was the largest building in the village, I assumed this was the school building.  My first impression was it looked like an abandoned warehouse building complete with missing windows and painted an ugly tan color.  The structure was surrounded by a solid concrete wall and the adjacent land which we used for a parking lot was filled with rubble and piles of large stones.  According to Omid, my interpreter, and the sign attached to the building, this was the village school.

Village next to the school building.

A few of us dismounted from our armor vehicles and was immediately approached by a tribal elder inquiring our purpose for being there.  I informed him that we would like to visit their school in hopes of distributing school supplies to the students at a later date.  The elder was very cordial and agreed to give us a tour of the school complex.  He introduced me to the principal and then I unveiled our plan.  Both the elder and principal were hesitant to allow us to visit in the morning when the school is occupied by the female students.  They suggested we come in the afternoon after the shift rotation and give the items to the boys.  I was very diplomatic because our mission was set for the morning and too often the girls are left out and receive nothing.  They gave in to my request and looked forward to our visit the next day.

Water source for the school.

Originally the ANA Brigade Surgeon was supposed to join us and introduce us to the tribal elders and principal.  But he was nowhere to be seen and nor was he answering his cell phone.  Meanwhile, our vehicles attracted attention and the village children were starting to crowd around our vehicles.  Some members were trying to be hospitable and interact with them.  While they were being distracted, the children removed the pens exposed from their uniforms and were badgering for more.  I completed my conversation with the principal and knew it was time to depart before the entire village would swarm around the convoy.  Our security experts got the information they were seeking and we then departed for the second leg of our journey, which I wrote about yesterday.

Army medic talks with small children.

The ANA Surgeon called me on the phone and wanted to meet to discuss tomorrow’s delivery.  I went to his office and he inquired where I was this morning.  I explained that we went to the village on a recon mission, met with the tribal elder and principal and solidified our plan to deliver school items tomorrow.  He revealed that he also went to the village and met with the tribal elders and the principal and he too promised delivery of school supplies.  Suddenly a dark cloud filled the room and I sensed something was wrong.  How could we have both been at the village in the morning and not seen each other?  It was because we visited two different villages about two miles apart.  Both villages had identical names except for the last four letters.  So now we had a dilemma.  The ANA surgeon was obviously concerned because we both had made promises.  I had to think fast on my feet and come up with a solution.  I proposed to divide the school supplies in half.  This way we could deliver to both schools and both of us would not lose face and keep our promises.  The ANA surgeon accepted my idea and he ordered some chai to drink while we worked out the final details.

Discussing security positions with ANA Brigade Surgeon.

Communication is so vital and is also the most challenging aspect of mentoring.  I was certain all of this time we were discussing plans for the same village school.  When in fact we weren’t.  Fortunately I had a large supply of school items or this could have been ugly, thus the potential to be the biggest blunder of my deployment.

Note:  Because I am super tired, tomorrow I will discuss the school supply mission in detail. I will refer to it as “Organized Chaos.”

I want to thank everyone who is supporting me in my wife’s efforts to give me an anniversary gift by nominating me for the MILblog competition.  If you like my blog entries and would like to vote for me, please go to Milblogging.com and follow the instructions.  I’m really surprised that I made it to the finals for the Air Force bloggers’ category and now am just one vote behind the seasoned Air Force PAO professionals.

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8 Responses

  1. It sounds like logic prevailed and you were able to figure out a way for the kids to get their supplies. Great! You are doing such a wonderful thing for those students.

  2. Have so enjoyed all of your exploits for the last year. Regarding the milblogs – I saw you were way at the top of the list when I voted. Please forgive me I keep forgetting that you are AF.I keep reading it but when I look at pix and read about what you are doing I forget. My son is AF, but except for his deployment – remember I only see you through these pix – blue is the AF color. I see lots of green and camo around you and forget. I know I’m dumb. My kids think it is cause I’m old, Well they will get old too. Welcome home soon. Lorraine

  3. LAST DAY TO VOTE. 🙂

  4. wow close race.

  5. ha ha Im trying. 🙂

  6. I think he got it.!!!???

  7. This is really a great contribution as every nation necessitates the education of its offspring that is the primary step towards development.

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