U.S. Army Spc. Jessica Walker from Killingworth, Conn., shares a hug with an Afghan child at a Girl Scout meeting on Forward Operating Base Finley Shields, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Oct 9. (U.S Army photo by Pfc.Cameron Boyd)
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Nov. 9, 2010) — “The goal is to form relationships“said U.S. Army Specialist Jessica A. Walker, of Anoka, Minn., “not to just hand out stuff.”
Walker is the non-commissioned officer in charge of psychological operations, assigned to the 319th Tactical Psychological Operations Company, Task Force Bastogne, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan.
Walker volunteered to in October to help with a ‘Girls Village Outreach Program’. The girls program was a natural fit and evolved from the successful boys program the 319th started in March. Afghan girls would come by to watch the boys learn and play. When they were invited to come and play, the girls eagerly joined in the fun and have been forming strong bonds with their American counterparts. Since its inception, the Girls Village Outreach Program has evolved from 17 children to over 135 today.
Walker, a full time student and part time librarian, joined the Army Reserve to be with her husband when his unit deployed. “I joined the Army for the simple fact that I really hated it when my husband was deployed in Iraq and I was stuck in Minnesota” she said. “After he returned, I heard that he would be going on another deployment, so I talked him into letting me join. I took the ASVAB, picked my husband’s MOS and unit and then joined the Army. Now here I am on deployment with my husband. It is much better than living in Minnesota without him.”
The Village Outreach Program is further scheduled to grow. Currently, there are plans to spread the program to 30 schools, which will impact 1,200 boys and 1,200 girls.