News: Alexander’s castle still has military uses in Afghanistan
Story by Tech. Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
QALAT CITY, Afghanistan – In any other country in the world it would be a tourist site.
A tour guide would lead people through the place local Afghans call Ball Haizer, or simply “The Castle” and tell of its rich history. Instead U.S. Soldiers assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul are looking to partner with Afghan National Army Soldiers to use the site to protect U.S. and Afghan interests in the area.
“I’m not the first Soldier to walk up the hill to use ‘The Castle’ for military purposes and I probably won’t be the last,” said Army Staff Sgt. Clarence Washington, PRT Zabul third squad security forces lead deployed from the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 110th Infantry Battalion in Connellsville, Pa. “Hopefully we can use its vantage point to secure our operations in this Province.”
According to local officials here, the fortress was built more than 2,000 years ago by legendary conqueror and Greek military leader, Alexander the Great during his push to India. Since then, nearly every military force has used it, including the British, the Russians, the Taliban, and now American and Afghan National Army soldiers.
“This place gets used for military purposes a lot,” said “Craft,” PRT Zabul’s interpreter. “Maybe one day it can be a place that people just come to and visit.”
While tourist visits are still in the future, Soldiers here now hope to use the stone-structure, towering over the more than 10,000 inhabitants of Qalat City, to help the PRT fulfill its three goals – improving security, extending the authority and credibility of the Afghan government, and finally to facilitate reconstruction.
“Being here can help us to better secure Highway 1, [the main road connecting Kabul to Kandahar] and keep my Soldiers and Airmen safe while we conduct our mission here,” said Army Sergeant Washington. “Getting everybody home safe and protecting the local populace, while conducting this mission is a top priority for me.”
Atop “The Castle” sits a glass teahouse. From the area surrounding the teahouse, one side offers an entire overview of Qalat City, while the other gives an almost endless view of the desert terrain that surrounds the city.
“The view is pretty awesome, but it also gives us a great vantage point to discourage and stop Taliban and enemy forces from trying to cause harm to our fellow servicemembers and local Afghans,” said Pfc. Scott Gaydos, PRT Zabul combat engineer. “Still it will be pretty cool when or if we do get a chance to work out here.”
Qalat is a Persian word meaning “faithful place”. For more than 2,000 years Soldiers have used this faithful place to conduct military operations throughout Zabul province. Airmen and Soldiers at Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul and Afghan government officials here are working, so that one day this can be a place tourist from all over the world can come visit. For now it still offers a military purpose.