News: Qalat radio station complete, dedicated to fallen airman
Story by Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
QALAT, Afghanistan - Members of the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team as well as radio station officials dedicated the new Qalat radio station and upgraded tower in the memory of a fallen airman in Qalat Afghanistan, Jan. 17.
The radio station was dedicated in the memory of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Darin Loftis, who died Feb. 25, 2012 from wounds received during an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. Loftis was a former member of Z PRT and ultimately started the Qalat radio station project.
The plaque, which hangs at the entrance of the new station, states: “This plaque is dedicated to the memory of Lt. Col. John Darin 'Esan' Loftis. Humanitarian, airman, father and loving husband whose dedication and vision saw through the building of this radio station.”
Loftis saw the importance of radio and connecting the people of Zabul province with their government. In Zabul province, which has a one of the lowest literacy rates in Afghanistan, radio is one way to inform the people.
The existing radio station had little reach and was located away from government buildings. The new building has a broader reach and is able to send signals throughout the three main districts in Zabul province.
Though the current PRT closed the project, it has been ongoing through several rotations of the PRT. Civil affairs as well as PRT engineers have been working on getting this project complete.
U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Rothfeld, a member of the Z PRT civil affairs team, headed the civil affairs portion of the project.
“The existing radio station was subpar,” said Rothfeld. “Building this station adjacent to the governor’s compound makes it easier for provincial leaders to use the station and extend the influence of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.”
During construction of the new radio station, PRT engineers were on hand to provide guidance and assistance when needed. Engineers also ensured the radio station was upgraded with equipment that could provide the broadcast reach needed for such a large province.
Second Lt. Dalton Hall, an engineer with Z PRT, was eager to complete this project.
“This project was started a couple of PRTs ago,” said Hall. “Though it has had some setbacks, it’s great that it is complete. I’m glad to be a part of the advancement of the Afghanistan communication network.”
Completion of the station is just one part of the overall process of connecting the people of Afghanistan with their government.
According to Rothfeld, the possibilities for the station are limitless.
“We have distributed hand crank radios to the local populace and encouraged provincial government officials to utilize the station and broadcast what is going on in their directorates," he said. "The government here has what it needs to get the message out to the public.”
Just being a part of what Loftis started is what makes this project special for Rothfeld.
“I’m really glad that I could be a part of seeing this project to completion,” said Rothfeld. “I’m honored that what he [Loftis] started years before is complete and that there is a lasting reminder of his contributions at the radio station.”