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PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shane Jobe, a combat engineer and team leader from Burlington, Iowa, with the 832nd Engineer Company attached to 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Horse, loads a cricket set into the back of a mine resistant ambush-protected vehicle on Bagram Airfield here Dec. 6. The cricket sets were delivered to a school in Bajawri. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – What do the towns of Keokuk, Iowa and Bajawri, Afghanistan have in common? For centuries, it was probably very little. But now, they are working together to construct a mosque in the village of Bajawri.



Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, 832nd Engineer Company, based out of Keokuk, Iowa, and attached to 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Squadron, Task Force Red Horse, traveled to the small village of Bajarwi here Dec. 6. The Soldiers went to the village to check the progress of a mosque being constructed that they were donating materials toward. The Soldiers are all part of the Iowa National Guard’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls.

“There was a project proposed by a local leader to help build a mosque in the village,” U.S. Army 1st Lt. Benjamin J. Davis, 2nd Platoon leader and Creston, Iowa, resident, explained. “The project was a carryover from the unit we replaced.”

Several months ago, Company A, 1st Squadron, 172nd Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Morgan - the unit the 832nd replaced - met with local mailk Sayad Kareem. Kareem represents 19 villages east of Bagram Airfield. In the village of Bajarwi, Kareem said the villagers wanted to build a mosque to hold worship services.

“The people of Bajarwi did not have a mosque and were not able to get together and pray,” Kareem said. “Everyone in the village is happy and appreciative that the coalition has been able to support the construction of the mosque. Our economy is not that good, and that is why we could not build it completely by ourselves and requested the help of the coalition.”

Aiding in the construction of a mosque is a rather unique undertaking for coalition forces.

“It’s very rare that U.S. or coalition forces would get to participate in the construction of a mosque,” said U.S. Army Capt. Tim Creasman, Boone, Iowa, native and 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, civil-military operations officer.

Creasman said the villages are more likely to approach the coalition for assistance in education and quality-of-life issues as opposed to religious needs. Both the citizens of Bajarwi and the Soldiers from the 832nd Engineer Company said they look at the mosque construction as a step in an improved partnership between the local citizens and coalition forces.

During their trip to the mosque Dec. 2, the 832nd Engineer Company took the opportunity to appraise the construction of the mosque, as well as to supervise the delivery of 100 additional bags of cement toward the mosque construction. A local Afghan contractor delivered the cement to the village.

The perimeter walls of the mosque are complete. They are made of red brick and mortar and laid by Bajarwi resident Mirzamin Ahmad-Zai. The walls exemplify Ahmad-Zai’s craftsmanship and feature elaborate arches along the sides of the building.

“I did it in five months, a little at a time, and continued working as I got materials,” Ahmad-Zai said. “This was my first mosque.”

Ahmad-Zai also added that members of each household in the village donated money toward construction of the mosque, and those who could not contribute money, sent family members to help with the labor.

As they stared at the walls, the Soldiers said they were amazed at Ahmad-Zai’s building skills.

To finish the mosque, Kareem said the building requires five tons of 16 millimeter rebar, which Creasman said the coalition will look into helping provide.

Abdul Rahim Mazai, Bajawri’s malik, said the Red Bulls are carrying on the partnership of the village shared with Task Force Morgan and he cannot express the gratitude he and the villagers feel.

“The coalition forces came here and talked to us,” he said. “They listened to our problems and provided us some assistance. This mosque was built by our people through the help of the coalition forces and the Red Bulls with materials. We hope to continue to work together, here and throughout Afghanistan.”

Davis said 2nd Platoon meets with maliks and local villagers on an almost daily basis since they arrived here almost a month ago. The engineers, led by U.S. Army Capt. Scott E. Hansen, of Maquoketa, Iowa, have assumed responsibility for providing security to 120 villages, all of which fall within a 10-kilometer area of the Bagram District. Davis said the unit also tries to help the villagers with their daily needs and to improve their quality of life, as was the case with aiding in the mosque construction in Bajawri.

“We’re trying to capture the human factor,” Davis said. “We can’t really understand what the people here need and how they operate without being amongst the people. They are getting more comfortable talking with us and realizing they don’t need to be scared of us.”

The Red Bulls engineer’s visit did not end with the trip to the mosque. From there, the Soldiers walked with the villagers to the school at the opposite end of town.  

U.S Army Capt. Joshua MacLean, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment information officer and Ottumwa, Iowa, resident, spoke with Kareem on a previous visit to Bajawri. Kareem mentioned there were 2,000 children attending the school, and that they enjoy playing cricket.

MacLean acquired eight cricket sets from the outgoing unit, complete with helmets, pads, balls and racquets, for the children of the school. The engineers delivered the sets to Nassar Ehmad, the school’s principle.

“They like to play cricket,” Davis said, “It shows them we are here to help.”

Before the Soldiers left, Kareem told them he would set up further meetings whenever they wanted to meet with him and include the other maliks of the surrounding villages.

“We hope to have a great partnership with the Red Bulls,” Mazai said, summing up the sentiments of the Soldiers and his townspeople.PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Allan Hoskins, a combat engineer from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with the 832nd Engineer Company attached to 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Horse, screws in the barrel of a .50-caliber machine gun in the turret of a mine resistant ambush-protected vehicle on Bagram Airfield prior to a mission Dec. 6 to deliver concrete to a mosque in the village of Bajawri here. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Mirzamin Ahmad-Zai, and U.S. Army Capt. Scott E. Hansen, 832nd Engineer Company commander of Maquoketa, Iowa, look at a mosque in the village of Bajawri in Eastern Afghanistan Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque, which Ahmad-Zai is building. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S Army Capt. Joshua MacLean, 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment information officer and Ottumwa, Iowa, resident, and Abdul Rahim Mazai, malik of the town of Bajawri, shake hands outside a mosque in the village here Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Capt. Tim Creasman, Boone, Iowa, native and 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Horse, civil-military operations officer, and U.S. Army Capt. Scott E. Hansen, 832nd Engineer Company commander and resident of Maquoketa, Iowa, talk outside a mosque being constructed in the village of Bajawri, here Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Local mailk, Sayad Kareem, and U.S. Army Capt. Scott E. Hansen, 832nd Engineer Company commander and resident of Maquoketa, Iowa, talk outside a mosque being constructed in the village of Bajawri, here Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan –U.S. Army Spc. Bronson Wixom, a combat engineer with the 832nd Engineer Company from Keokuk, Iowa, hollers down to a small Afghan boy in the town of Bajawri here Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Todd Sackman, a platoon sergeant with the 832nd Engineer Company from Ottumwa, Iowa, shares a laugh with a group of Afghan boys in the town of Bajawri here Dec. 6. The 832nd Engineer Company delivered 100 bags of cement to the village to help the citizens finish their mosque. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls)

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 December 2010 23:53
 

    

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