Latest Centcom News Letter


I have the Centcom newsletter sent to me. I suppose many of us do; but, with everything else I often forget to read it the way I’d like . So I’m going to try to remember to post it here whenever I get it for all who are interested as a reminder to read it. They have some really great stories and pictures.

US Central Command Electronic Newsletter – Week of 23 January 2006
An Afghan boy receives his certificate of graduation during a ceremony in Qalat Dec. 18. The graduation’s opening remarks were made by Zabul Governor Del Bar Jan Arman. Photo by Spc. Jon H. Arguello

New school empowers Afghan workforceBy Spc. Jon H. Arguello
Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs

QALAT, Afghanistan – A new vocational school graduated more than 30 students from a basic computer class Jan. 18 at the Qalat Provincial Reconstruction Team base in Zabul province. The students received their graduation certificates and were ready to either use their newly acquired skills as new members of the Afghan workforce or return to class to attend an intermediate-level class.

The trade school, which provides courses in computers, carpentry, welding, electrical systems, auto mechanics, rug weaving, nursing, emergency medical technician, driving, plumbing and English, has graduated nearly 200 students. Students don’t just leave with a certificate; however, they also leave with a starter kit of supplies or tools needed to fulfill the requirements of working in their respective fields.

“The Qalat PRT believes this vocational school is moving the Afghan workforce forward,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Goodfellow, commander of the Qalat PRT. “There is a demonstrated willingness from the youth of Zabul province in taking a substantial interest in the future of themselves as well as Afghanistan.”

The school, which is open to women and men, solves a crucial problem in the Afghan workforce, Goodfellow said. It enhances the marketable job skills of the province’s workforce.

Many of the provincial reconstruction team’s projects were using Pakistani workers because contractors could not find qualified Afghan workers to fill the jobs. That’s when the PRT decided to take the initiative to train the Afghan workforce so they could benefit from their own country’s progress. The PRT’s pilot program was well received and enrolled 290 students, of which 180 have graduated. The program will soon be moving forward with a second semester and has more than enough students to fill up the classrooms.

American Soldiers didn’t just come up with the idea, they are also teaching classes. The opportunity to teach in Afghanistan, beyond being rare, has also given the Soldiers a sense of personal gratification.

“This assignment is the one I have enjoyed the most throughout my military career,” said Sgt. Robert Noe, one of the school’s teachers from the 451st Civil Affairs Battalion.

The eagerness with which the Afghans seek educational opportunities makes teaching the courses fulfilling Noe said.

The program has been so successful the school has had to turn away many students, demonstrating the Afghans’ desire for an education and joining the legitimate workforce.

There’s more than education at stake said Goodfellow, it’s also about achieving a more far-reaching goal.

“Putting young and old Afghans to work mitigates the effect of the Taliban regime,” Goodfellow said. “The bettering of one’s life and supporting his or her family demonstrates the belief in moving forward towards peace and leaving the past behind.”

Dr. Azhar Al-Shakhly, (left) of the Iraqi State Ministry for Woman Affairs and Azza Humadi, Gulf Region Division Women’ s Issue Coordinator, work closely to erect a stable foundation for Iraqi females. (GRD photo Denise Calabria)

Women working for women’s welfareBy Denise Calabria
Gulf Region Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Baghdad, Iraq – While dirt-covered construction workers toil to rebuild Iraq’s decimated infrastructure, two Iraqi-born women more accustomed to “basic black with pearls”, are busy erecting a different type of foundation for their female counterparts in Iraq. Their work may take place out of the limelight, yet both are highly determined in their endeavors and dedicated to realizing their goals.

The first woman, Dr. Azhar Al-Shakhly leads the Iraqi State Ministry for Woman Affairs. The previous government established the office that, unlike most ministries, does not have a budget.

The other woman, Azza Humadi is the Women’s Issue Coordinator for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Gulf Region Division (GRD). Through the GRD’s work funded with Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) monies, many Iraqi women-owned businesses have been highly successful in the Iraq reconstruction efforts. Humadi contributes to this accomplishment and has assumed the lead in establishing an Iraqi women’s database with over 200 registered, women-owned businesses.

She also regularly meets with 250 Iraqi women’s organizations and other non-government offices to enhance women’s participation in Iraq reconstruction. Additionally, she hosted a series of three highly successful Contracting Outreach Conferences and two round-table meetings for women during 2005. The word quickly spread about the Outreach Conferences and participation rose from 120 at the first conference, to more than 400 at the last conference held.

“Traveling out to the Red Zone is not easy for me or anyone else, but you cannot expect people to support and believe in you if you don’t show them that you are willing to take risks for them. I do not believe I can remain within the International Zone if I want to network and develop strong relationships,” said Humadi.

“Seeing the Iraqi women face to face in their own environments makes a huge difference. They want to see how you look and think – and not only via email messages,” she said.

Due to targeted efforts over the past year, over 250 Iraqi women-owned businesses have vetted contracts with GRD for reconstruction work, representing approximately $200 million of construction and non-construction contracts. The contracts range from full-scale engineering design and construction of buildings to digging of wells, to supply of construction and office materials, to custodial services. Each month, women-owned businesses compete for and earn approximately 15 new contracts in Iraq – revealing a pattern of slow-but-steady progress.

In a recent visit to Al-Shakhly’s office, Humadi translated while the official explained that the State Ministry for Woman Affairs’ function is to develop projects and future strategic plans to educate both internal and external audiences about women. Two of its objectives are the education of women and the improvement of laws to help improve Iraqi women’s social and financial standing.

Al-Shakhly’s span of control is limited. Without her own budget, she must rely upon the Minister of Planning to approve her projects. As such, she firmly believes that Iraq needs a Ministry for Woman Affairs. “For the time being, because of the situation of how women are looked at here in Iraq, we need this. We still have many people believing that the woman is less than the man [is] and must be behind him,” said Al-Shakhly.

Iraqi females constitute 61 percent of the country’s total population and Humadi believes that Iraqi women should be both participants in and beneficiaries of Iraqi reconstruction activities. “This is why we have a special program to facilitate the involvement of Iraqi women-owned businesses in the reconstruction process,” she said.

“In addition, we want to assist the capacity development in the Ministry for Woman’s Affairs through internship programs and special training. We would like to see more women in business as well as operating their own businesses and taking leadership positions,” said Humadi.

“These programs help Iraqi women become financially independent.”

Both women admitted that times were not always as difficult for Iraqi women. Iraq appointed its first female judge in the 1950s, and in 1959, the first female Iraqi minister held office. The women said that even into the 1970s, Iraq’s societal roles were much more relaxed and there were mixed clubs, parties, and weddings.

“In the Middle East, sometimes the mentality works against the woman [similar to] the way they used to think in the old days. For us living here in Baghdad, we never had the feeling that society was against women,” said Al-Shakhly. She believes the change spread to Iraq after significant power shifts took place in the Middle East.

Al-Shakhly, however, remains undaunted. She is working on an education project designed to improve literacy for Iraqi women who left school and are too old to go back. The project would target women in the north, south, central, and rural portions of the country and while the Minister of Planning recently approved her proposal, she has not yet received the money. Mobile health care is another of her ideas but that, too, requires funds.

Al-Shakhly admits to worrying about the potential for “brain drain” if younger, educated Iraqis choose to leave their homeland.

“I consider myself the mother of Iraq,” the trained lawyer and mother of three sons said, “so I would offer the following advice to those thinking of leaving the country.”

“You have to be patient … the same as what happened after the earthquake. Usually, after an earthquake, you have many problems. You must be patient to see it through.”

A member of USS Winston S. Churchill’s (DDG 81) boarding team conducts an inspection Jan. 22 of a dhow suspected of being used in an attempted act of piracy after a report from the International Maritime Bureau.

U.S. Navy Captures Suspected Pirates Off Somali CoastMANAMA, Bahrain – At approximately 3 p.m. local time today, Jan. 21, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet captured a group of suspected pirates in the Indian Ocean, approximately 54 miles off the central eastern coast of Somalia.

After receiving a report of an attempted act of piracy from the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur on the morning of Jan. 20, the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and other U.S. naval forces in the area located the vessel of the suspected pirates and reported its position. Churchill then shadowed the suspect pirate vessel through the night and into the morning hours of Jan. 21.

At 8:03 a.m. local time Jan. 21, Churchill began questioning the pirate vessel over ship-to-ship radio. Churchill requested the crew leave the vessel and board the two small boats they had in tow. Following repeated and continuous attempts to establish communications with the vessel to no avail, Churchill began aggressive maneuvering in an attempt to stop the vessel. The vessel continued on its course and speed. At 11:31 a.m. local Churchill fired warning shots. The vessel cut speed and went dead in the water.

At 1:02 p.m. local Churchill issued a warning via ship-to-ship radio that they would begin taking further actions to force the crew to respond to questioning and depart the vessel. At 2:21 p.m. local Churchill fired additional warning shots, and at that time the crew of the suspect pirate vessel established communications by radio and indicated that they would begin sending personnel to the Churchill via their small boat in tow.

At 2:54 p.m. local the master of the pirate vessel started sending members of the crew to Churchill. U.S. Navy Sailors from Churchill then boarded the suspect vessel and discovered small-arms weapons on board.

New hospital symbolizes Afghan progress in southStory by Spc. Jon H. Arguello
Task Force Bayonet Public Affairs

QALAT, Afghanistan – Few infrastructure projects inject the Afghan people with as much hope for a stable and healthy life for their families as a new hospital. Along with many of the new roads and bridges built during reconstruction, a new hospital will bring that hope to a new level for the people living in southern Afghanistan

The new Zabul Regional Teaching Hospital in Qalat was toured this week by Zabul’s governor, Arman, his director of women affairs, Dr. Gul Nar, Qalat’s provincial reconstruction team commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Goodfellow, and a group of representatives from the United Arab Emirates.

“The hospital is statically located between Kabul and Kandahar and will provide the middle provinces of Afghanistan with a full service hospital with state-of-the-art equipment,” Goodfellow said. “But this hospital is more than a place for Afghans throughout Zabul province to seek health care, it’s a milestone symbolizing the strong foundation being built on which a future prosperous, secure and healthy nation will grow.”

The hospital was built with funds provided by the United Arab Emirates. Local contractors built the hospital and installed the $4 million worth of equipment which was escorted from Kandahar Airfield to Qalat by Coalition forces consisting of Qalat PRT Soldiers and U.A.E. Forces.

“The complete project was a classic example of inter-agency cooperation,” Goodfellow said. “The Qalat PRT, Afghan Ministry of Health, U.A.E embassy staff and U.A.E. Forces, technicians from India, and Charlie Company medical staff from the 173rd Support Battalion on KAF played important roles in the successful project.”

The new facility can hold up to 130 patients and includes a level-one trauma center, major and minor surgery facilities, pediatric and neo-natal care and full service dental care. The hospital is truly a sign of progress for the Afghan people, according to the colonel.

“The people of Afghanistan will be forever grateful to all involved in building this hospital,” said Arman. “The facility is very impressive and it’s beautiful to see where the country is going.”

Goodfellow agreed with the governor’s assessment: “The local populace sees the provincial government moving the region in a positive direction. That’s invaluable here, whether it’s with a hospital or bridge or school. There’s more to a hospital than health care. A hospital brings people hope and hope can turn into vision. If we can get all Afghans to share a common vision, there’s no end to what Afghanistan can do for itself.”

By Gulf Region Division – US Army Corps of Engineers Workers replace the road surface following the installation of new sewer pipes in Mosul

More sewers for IraqBy Claude D. McKinney
Gulf Region North
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Mosul, Iraq: In a city with a population over 1.75 million, sewer upgrade projects seem to come in small steps. Most residents may not even notice the improvement unless it is their street that just received the sewer install. That is the case in a subdivision neighborhood within the largest city of northern Iraq, Mosul.

A new pipe has been buried which carries away the waste from 6,000 residents of the neighborhood. The only evidence of the activity is a stretch of new pavement down the middle of the road.

Little by little, the open-surface waste water system used for as long as the city has been in place is being replaced by underground piping transporting the sewage to treatment plants. In some cases, as with this one, a more modern system was neglected and allowed to deteriorate to such a state that it is now broken and needs replacing.

“The benefit is of these projects is far greater than just to providing 6,000 here and 7,000 there, an upgraded sewer system. These projects address a broad health issue. As surface sewage and contaminated ground water is removed from neighborhoods, the spread of disease is lessened,” said Lee Kenderdine, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Resident Engineer. “We are working 15 similar projects,” he said.

At the current rate of progress, it may be years before the entire city has an upgraded sewer system. Yet, as the old saying goes, ‘Rome was not built in a day.’ Mosul is an old city with a marvelous history, but it will not be rebuilt in a day, either.

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~ by devildog6771 on January 31, 2006.

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