KABUL, Afghanistan - Many members of coalition forces, while deployed to eastern Afghanistan, have discovered with the help of Operation Outreach Afghanistan (OOA), that not everything that they will have to do here will have to be tactical in nature.
In fact, over the past several months, many coalition forces members have experienced the rewards that come from giving something back to their fellow man with the help of Operation Outreach Afghanistan (OOA), also known just as Outreach.
Healing hearts and minds has been the motto of the organization ever since it first started in 2009, here in Kabul, within the confines of Camp Phoenix.
Officially, the mission of Outreach is to empower the Afghan people through compassionate humanitarian assistance.
Outreach is a volunteer organization not affiliated or sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense. We are a group of deployed U.S. service members and civilians working to bring relief and aid to the Afghan people. Outreach members volunteer their off-duty time to help provide commonly needed items to those in need, such as school supplies, clothing and toiletries.
Another major project of Outreach is to make fuel donuts for local Afghans to burn for fuel during winter months.
“We collect cardboard boxes donations of school supplies and clothing from citizens back home and the shredded paper from missions across Camp Phoenix throughout the year,” said Lt. Col. Francisco Dominguez, the current chairman of OOA on Camp Phoenix and an Air National Guardsman and member of the 335th Signal Command (Theater), of Houston.
“Once we have a sizeable amount of boxes, then we run them through a shredder We also collect sawdust from the construction efforts that run continuously on this camp and then we mix that with the shredded paper and with water, so we can press the resulting mixture into the fuel donuts,” Dominguez said.
Currently there are numerous task forces contributing to Outreach, from all of the U.S. military services, in the Department of Defense (DoD).
“The numbers of people volunteering go up and down a little, based on units coming and going,” said Capt. Porter, a Task Force Legal Counsel, “but there are still quite a few of us still going over to put our time in, even if we have completed 80 hours or more.”
Porter went on to say that Outreach presents volunteers earn an award, the Military Outstanding Voluteer Service Medal (MOVSM) once they have completed 80 hours of volunteer service.
“I just hope we can keep getting people over there to pitch in with Outreach,” Porter said. “I’ll be leaving soon, so we will work to get the word out to some of the newer arrivals, especially among the (individual) augmentees, like me, that’s how I came over here to this deployment, but it’s great for anyone we can get over here to Outreach from our task force, down through the months coming out to volunteer, especially when we see the example from our First Sergeant, not to mention one of our translators, who was actually born here in Kabul, but left here to go to the U.S. at a very young age and is back here now.”
“It really gives you a sense of what we are really here for,” Porter said. “It just feels great to be giving something back and I truly believe Outreach is to a large degree the backbone of coalition efforts to get the Afghan people to where they can stand on their own two feet and see just how strong they can truly be.”
Service members from throughout Camp Phoenix, who are members of Outreach will continue working to stockpile cardboard, make fuel donuts and package and distribute basic needs items throughout the year.
“We work all year to build our humanitarian packages and fuel donuts to meet the needs of the people in the local communities around Camp Phoenix,” Dominguez said. “Without our volunteers we would have no program; I know I speak for our entire organization when I say, ‘we truly appreciate everyone's help.’”
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This work, Reaching out: Coalition forces members support Operation Outreach Afghanistan, by MAJ Joel Anderson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.