Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Moving to Maiwand

It's time for a major change in jobs.  Tomorrow morning, I will leave the luxuries of Kandahar Air Field and move downrange to the District Support Team in Maiwand.  KAF has been a great assignment.  I got to work with a lot of smart people (as well as a few whose smarts seemed to have been left back in the States).  I went to some neat places: Arghandab, Dand, Spin Boldak, Uruzgan, Zhari, Kandahar City, and Daman.  I participated in the painfully thorough planning process for the spring operations that are about to kick off.  I was immersed in trying to figure out how an extremely dysfunctional government really functions, which often entails studying things that have nothing to do with government.  In short, I learned a hell of a lot.

So about a month ago, I decided to go for a new challenge and told my boss that I wanted to move further out to a DST.  These are small teams of 1-4 people who work closely with the district governors, officials, shuras, key leaders, and military forces.  They often live in spartan conditions on small bases.  Life out there is much more basic than here, but DST members deal directly with Afghans, personally, on a daily basis.  Frankly, at KAF, I've been doing staff work and working pretty exclusively with Americans.  I can do that at home.  Time to go do something different.

So I'm off to Maiwand.  This is a key district in southern Afghanistan.  It's in western Kandahar Province, on the border with Helmand Province.  The Ring Route, Highway 1, which runs in a circle around Afghanistan to connect all the key cities, bisects the district.  It's home to the Taliban.  Its major cash crop is poppy.  The official Afghan government only has a toe-hold there.

Starting tomorrow, I'll be half of a two-man team based on a small COP in the district center in the town of Hutal.  ("Town" as used here is being generous.)  In another week or two, we'll add another individual.  Our mission is to get a functioning structure in the district so that it can maintain itself after military forces and US assistance pull back.  Whether that's achievable remains to be seen, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

So I'm pretty excited about this opportunity.  This is what I came to Afghanistan to do.  Time to go do it.


Amy LeeB said...

Best of luck to you, Skip!

Debbie of Boise said...

Skip, I love your passion for working with and learning from a culture, a people not of your birth. God bless your drive to work directly with Afghans to fulfill their deepest desire, in the words of the prophet Micah:
Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:4)
God bless you. Be safe.

Kanani said...

Best of luck to you, and so glad you are setting out to do the job you wanted!