GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan—Afghan National Army Sgt. Ajab Khan (center), platoon sergeant for the weapons company, 3rd Kandak, 3rd ANA Brigade, passes out items to villagers during a humanitarian assistance mission in Arezo village, Oct. 31. The ANA- led mission distributed items including pens, school backpacks, radios and blankets to children and other villagers. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Zumer, TF Duke PAO)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan (November 07, 2011) — U.S. Army Soldiers joined their Afghan National Army counterparts in a humanitarian assistance mission to Arezo village, Andar District, Oct. 31.
“We are happy with the visit today. The situation is good since the ANA came here,” said Noor Ahmad, an Arezo villager.
Afghan National Army Sgt. Ajab Khan, a platoon sergeant with the 3rd Kandak, 3rd ANA Brigade, led the contingent in passing out pens, school backpacks, radios and blankets. For him, the humanitarian assistance mission boiled down to a couple simple reasons.
“We came here to help the people and show them that we care,” he said.
Enthusiastic crowds swarmed those passing out the items on tranquil streets, but according to some present, the village hasn’t always been so quiet.
“Arezo used to be a completely different town,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Mike Lambert, a native of Littleton, Colo.
On past visits Lambert said his Soldiers had frequently been subjected to small arms fire and improvised explosive devices. The transformation to a more peaceful village, he said, is likely attributable to an increased ANA presence.
The ANA opened a checkpoint in the village in August. Lambert said his Soldiers were more than happy to make the Arezo trip that saw many happy children receiving gifts.
“We wanted to help the ANA get out among the people,” said Lambert.
U.S. Army Sgt. Matt O’Malley, a military information support operations specialist from Long Island, N.Y., said that interacting with villagers is crucial for building greater rapport and understanding.
Such interaction also has spillover effects impacting security, making it crucial for the Afghan government and the military to get out more, he said.
“We had heard that Arezo used to be much more violent, with insurgents frequently passing through. It’s become a lot more peaceful with a good relationship between the people and the ANA at the checkpoint,” said O’Malley.
“Having that constant ANA checkpoint here has really helped a lot,” agreed Lambert.