Afghans, Marines brighten horizons for young students

Cpl Joshua Brooks, a Marine serving with Team 3, Civil Affairs Detachment 11-2, greets students as they arrive for school here Feb. 25, 2012. The Marines of Team 3 provided guidance to the local government here to help them construct a new school. Brooks said visiting the school is the highlight of his deployment. The current school is made of mud and mortar, is overcrowded and only has enough capacity to hold up to sixth grade. The new school will have up to eighth grade and have more than enough room for students and teachers. Brooks is from Celeste, Texas, and is serving under Regimental Combat Team 5 and alongside 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion in Helmand province. Photo by Sgt Michael S. Cifuentes.

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan (March 8, 2012)—If it's one thing Cpl Joshua Brooks likes most about his deployment to Afghanistan, it's his visits to the school in Khan Neshin. Brooks is a member of Team 3, Civil Affairs Detachment 11-2, a unit serving alongside 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion out of Combat Outpost Castle, assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5. They conduct civil affairs operations in southern Helmand province, with a goal to assist and guide the local Afghan government to service the country on their own.

The local government and civil affairs Marines identified the need for a new school here. Team 3 is now helping the village brighten their children's horizons. Brooks said the project is the highlight of the deployment for him.

"When you see the little kids run up to you and ask you for pens or soccer balls, they're just being genuine," said Brooks, a native of Celeste, Texas. "Seeing a school built for these guys is what's going to make (the deployment) worth it in the end—knowing that they're safe and are going to get the education that they need."

The current school is a traditional build for the area in Afghanistan. The walls are made of mud and mortar; there are six classrooms; and there's no electricity or running, drinking water.

Furthermore, the school is packed and can only support classes up to sixth grade, said 2nd Lt Andrew McGann, the assistant team leader of Team 3.

"It's an important project to the community because they value education. The locals want a better future for their children," said McGann, a native of Longmont, Colo. "In order to give that to the children, they need an appropriate place to go to school."

The head teacher of the school, known as "showoonki" in the Pashto language, voiced his concerns when the Marines of Team 3 visited the school to survey the progress of the new building.

He said the project is very welcomed, but it's tough sharing six classes with two teachers.

McGann said the new school will not only meet the current needs, but they expanded it for future increase in the volume of students and teachers.

The design of the new school is an eight-classroom, burnt brick building with an iron sheet roof—a building capable of lasting in the southern desert village here. With the new school, the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan will assign new teachers to the school, who will teach up to eight-grade students. The old school house will remain as dormitories for teachers and overflow classrooms as required.

Brooks said the new school can provide children with "the opportunity to dream bigger than who they are."

"School is serving a lot for us. We're learning here," said Noorm Mohammad, a 9-year-old student. "So school is everything to us."

Editor's Note: Team 3, Civil Affairs Detachment 11-2 are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.

 

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