News: 2-18 gets back to basics with Kunduz students
Story by Spc. Nathan Goodall
COMBAT OUPOST KHILAGUY, Afghanistan – It’s difficult to imagine students in school with no paper or pencils to write with. Unfortunately many schools in Afghanistan are unable to provide these seemingly simple supplies.
Soldiers with 3rd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team visited a rural school in Kunduz province to provide students with basic educational supplies during a patrol last month.
Like many schools in Afghanistan, reports were given to 3rd Platoon that the school’s students in Sengay lacked basic supplies and were without sports equipment. “Vanguard” soldiers loaded gifts into their military vehicles and aimed to make the students’ day a little brighter.
“We went there and I was excited from the beginning because you actually get to interact with the population, you actually get to see the help that you’re supplying,” said Sgt. Christopher W. Kane, a Baltimore native, now a squad leader with 3rd Platoon.
“Before we even brought in the supplies the kids were immediately like, ‘oh cool the Americans are here,’” said Spc. Mustafa H. Valadanzouj, a San Antonio native, now an M249 machine-gunner with 3rd Platoon.
After the platoon soldiers conducted a security scan of the area and met with the school principal, Valadanzouj brought in a box filled with school supplies and soccer balls to hand out to students.
While Valadanzouj and Kane opened the box, children gathered around curiously, with faces widened by big smiles.
“Once we started breaking out the supplies they started getting pretty excited,” said Valadanzouj.
School children smiled but initially hesitated until Kane playfully rolled a soccer ball toward them. When the first child placed his foot on the ball, a friendly game began and students laughed as they passed the ball to one another.
“Watching the kids faces and having them come up to you, it was great,” said Kane. “There was no tension. It was just us helping them. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. I felt fulfilled.”
“A lot of times they don’t have the means to provide soccer balls for recess and stuff like that in between their learning periods, so to give them that is something special,” said Cpl. Johnny J. Daniels, a Little Rock, Ark., native, now a squad leader with 3rd Platoon.
Valadanzouj knelt eye level with young students and handed out bags filled with crayons, pens and paper. The children grinned and held up the bags in exhilaration.
“Even a simple pen that maybe an American child would think nothing of and disregard, to them it’s like a piece of gold,” said Daniels. “Just knowing that we could provide something that simple and make a difference to them is the most important thing.”
Providing aid to schools is crucial to the development of Afghanistan, because these children are the future of the country, said Valadanzouj.
The teaching staff expressed their gratitude for the supplies Vanguard soldiers provided. This was an important first meeting between 3rd Platoon and the school, said Valadanzouj.
“The first impression is a lasting impression,” said Daniels. “We’re here to make things better all the way from the youngest child up to the most senior ranking adult in the village, whatever aid that we can provide to give them a better way of life.”
Though the supply mission was the first time soldiers with 170th IBCT provided aid to the school in Sengay, it won’t be the last. There are 20 villages with a total of 1,200 students in Sengay’s school district, said Valadanzouj.
“Now that we have a grasp of the age range and the number of students, we can actually bring more materials based toward a higher education, especially a high school, level. So we will definitely be interacting more,” said Valadanzouj.