PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The popular Dr. Seuss book titled “The Cat In The Hat” has turned into an operation name that has soldiers of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team reading English books to children at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
Operation Cat in the Hat opened its doors to the children of Bagram on Oct. 13. The first two classes consisted of 21 boys and 19 girls who received a curriculum in English.
“The students were very excited about their first day and couldn't contain their smiles,” said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Bloomfied of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, manager of contracting officer representatives with the 45th IBCT.
Operation Cat in the Hat originally started after the Bagram elders requested Americans help teach their children English.
Bloomfield was introduced to the concept by 1st Lt. Martha Garcia and Staff Sgt. Carlos Llanes of the 101st Division during her deployment with the Iowa National Guard. Bloomfield decided to extend her tour and work with the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to see the concept of the school come to fruition.
Bloomfield has a degree in education and teaches kindergarten through eighth grade in her civilian job in Iowa. Her background helps her to both teach the children and mentor the volunteers and teachers.
“This experience will help my wife and I to be better teachers,” said Hedayatullah, an English teacher from the village. “We appreciate the lessons we are learning from Ms. Bloomfield.
Hedayatullah and his wife continue to gain experience through this reading program. He expressed excitement about how the teachers like the students and students like their teachers.
The program is well received by the local Bagram community and soldiers have been told by the Afghans that a hundred more parents want to enroll their children.
“One day, I want to see more schools for my village to make education better,” said Hedayatullah, an English teacher in the village. “The parents are very happy and thank us for teaching English classes.”
The school operates on donations to the program going.
One of the biggest supporters of the project is the Adopt a Soldier Platoon which supplied 40 laptops for the students. Operation Care, a local Bagram charity, provided many of the school supplies and books. Churches and individual soldiers have also donationed supplies to the support the school and the effort.
“This is definitely a program that will expand,” said Master Sgt. James Wooding of Boston, anti-terrorism force protection supervisor assigned to the 45th IBCT and volunteer for the program. “This has allowed for tearing down barriers between the local Afghans and the military… it has helped us build trust.”
The success of the community effort and work of the volunteers continues to reach new milestones. What started as an idea is now a reality and one that have parents waiting to enroll their children.
“The full class of girls is ground breaking,” said Bloomfield. “The Bagram community has been known to be very conservative so we are very happy to be able to share this opportunity with the girls. I hope we can continue this level of trust with the local community.”