News: Trash to treasure: Afghan workers use skills to enhance DFAC
Story by Staff Sgt. Terrance Rhodes
By U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Terrance D. Rhodes
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Art comes in various forms. It can be drawn, written, musically produced, acted-out or shown in many other ways. Service members and civilians who eat at the Koele Dining Facility may see Afghan-made art displayed throughout the building.
Afghan workers use recycled Styrofoam material to beautify and enhance the Koele DFAC all year long. They construct holiday art displays along with everyday items that make the DFAC a more attractive place to dine.
The workers’ jobs range from serving food, dining room maintenance, kitchen detail and cooking, but they also take extra pride in the art displays.
“It makes them feel good to see their work around the facilities,” said Frederick Church, a native of Riverside, Calif., and the food service senior supervisor at Koele. “I gave them the basic idea, but the craftsmanship and attention to detail is what they take pride in.”
Mujib Ulrahman, a skill labor worker, is one of the main contributors to the art displays seen at Koele. Ulrahman holds a degree in journalism, but has loved decorating since his childhood days.
“I went to school to learn how to decorate flowers as a child,” Ulrahman said. “When Mr. Church asked me to do some decorations for the holidays last year, I was more than happy to do so.”
Shahagha, a skill labor worker, also works on the art displays at Koele. Shahagha enjoys drawing portraits of art in his spare time.
“It comes naturally for me,” said Shahagha. “I enjoy painting portraits of things I see around me.”
Some of Ulrahman’s and Shahagha’s favorite displays are the military service logos that are found in the Checo Room at Koele.
The room was dedicated to U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Checo in 2002, but Ulrahman and Shahagha redesigned the art displays for the room to bring more attention to the fallen soldier, said Church.
Building the art displays has raised morale in the working community and given the Afghan workers a chance to show their talents, Church added.
“The morale of the DFAC has increased because [the Afghans] feel like they are a part of something bigger,” said Church. “They feel like part of the solution and not the problem.”
It has also created strong bonds between the Afghans and American workers.
“I feel that we are not only co-workers but we are friends, and friendships last forever,” said Ulrahman.