LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army Capt. Jason Merchant, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Ironman from Dysart, Iowa, hands out cards Dec. (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Lauren Hyman of Texarkana, Texas, armored vehicle driver for the 64th Military Police Company based at Combat Oupost Fortress, says hello to an (click for more)
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Taylor Gingrich, an infantry officer from Cedar Falls, Iowa, with Task Force Ironman, draws a smile from an Afghan boy as Gingrich (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Brian Stowe, a human resources specialist from Elkmont, Ala., with Task Force Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, sings a ballad he wrote and (click for more)
PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Servicemembers defend the wall after an improvised explosive device detonates on Forward Operating Base Lightning Dec. 5. (click for more)
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan and French military chiefs conduct a briefing before deployment during a security operation. Afghan National Security Forces and French Task Force Richelieu conducted Operation Montevideo (click for more)
PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Phil Compton, Doty, Wash., Panjshir PRT engineer, and PRT local Afghan engineer Abid Wardak check the structural integrity of the retaining (click for more)
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – An Afghan family looks at their new family member after she was delivered by the Polish Army medical team at Forward Operating Base Warrior Jan. 3. (click for more)
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, maneuver through Sabari District during patrols to disrupt insurgent activity in the (click for more)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Shawn Fouste, Decatur, Ill., noncommissioned officer in charge of the Freedom Restoration Center with the 455th Expeditionary Wing, Task Force Med, plays with (click for more)
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – “We must rebuild our country as Korea did.” This was the message Abdul Basir Salangi, Parwan provincial governor, gave to the 84 young Afghan students intently watching his speech from the seats in front of him.
The students, who came from Parwan and Kapisa provinces, were the first graduates of an eight-month vocational training course Dec. 8 at the Korean Vocational Training Center on Bagram Airfield here.
The course featured in-depth, hands-on training in five disciplines: automotive work, construction, welding, electrical work and computer systems. The training started April 8 and included more than 700 hours of study in these areas, as well as additional subjects such as English.
“I would like to thank the Korean people for paving the ground for us to learn more and more and brighten our future as a nation,” Salangi said. He told the students that now that they graduated, they are skilled professionals who are needed to rebuild Afghanistan.
Park Hae-Yun, the South Korean ambassador to Afghanistan, said the challenges Afghanistan faces in building up its infrastructure and economy are similar to those Korea faced following the Korean War, but they can be overcome. He said the two countries share many common features.
“Afghanistan is a country that is undergoing a difficult phase in its history,” Hae-Yun said. “But I firmly believe this country can overcome their difficulties and become a great and prosperous country in the near future.”
“Korea also suffered war and poverty in the 1950’s, but has since become an economic success story in the world. As a country which lacks natural and financial resources, Korea has learned the valuable lesson that high quality human assets are the most important resources for our country’s economic development. For this reason we have always put education and vocational training at the top of our national agenda.”
Hae-Yun said with the hardworking people and natural resources present in Afghanistan, he believes someday they will achieve great success.
Local government officials, members of the Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team, as well as military leaders from the 101st Airborne Division and 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division were among the distinguished guests in attendance at the graduation. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Deputy Commanding General (Support) of the 101st Airborne Division, was among the guests.
“I see many similarities between Afghanistan and Korea, the main one being promise,” Phipps said. “Over sixty years ago, Korea was ravaged by war, and it’s through their dedication, hard work and education that they’ve become a leader among the community of nations. Both the Republic of Korea, the provincial reconstruction team here and the coalition wish the same for Afghanistan.”
The faculty of the KVTC was comprised of a mix of Korean and Afghan instructors, all of whom were recognized as the tops in their trades. The 11 Afghan instructors completed a three-month internship in Korea as part of the program.
Saboor Azeizi was one of the Afghan instructors who taught construction at the KVTC.
“This is a very useful program for our country,” he said. “All the students who graduated today are now skilled laborers. Our country has many laborers, but these are the standard.”
Though this was the inaugural graduating class of the KVTC in Bagram, a KVTC has existed in Kabul since July 2005.
Upon completion of the course, all 84 graduates will begin immediately using their new skills in Bagram and Kabul as employees of the Fluor Corporation.
“I hope you make use of your skills and techniques which you have cultivated in this center for the development of your company, your community and your home country of Afghanistan,” Dr. Deok-Soo Kong, the director of the KVTC, said.
“Fluor, the company for which you will work, is one of the most famous in the world. One of the most interesting men in the world, Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft once said, ‘If you were born poor, it is not your mistake, but if you die poor, it is your mistake.’ Yes, my students, you can make your life worthy through your efforts. If you have dreams and hopes for the future, try to realize them.”
Phipps also said the practical approach the program offers – teaching Afghans usable skills and employing them with those skills is a great approach to reconstruction.
“The great thing about this program is that it provides local Afghans with the skill sets to find employment, not only locally, but to expand their skills and help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan itself,” Phipps said.
Among the graduates was Achmad Nawid Mohammadi, a 21-year-old Afghan who graduated from Bagram High School. Mohammadi was one of 17 students to graduate the automotive program.
“I learned to work on brake systems, electrical systems, the chassis and the engine,” Mohammadi said, in fluent English, which he said he also learned through the KVTC. “I also learned the AutoCAD program on the computer.”
Mohammadi said he will continue to enhance the KVTC program by working as an instructor starting Dec. 9. He said he will also work on light-wheeled vehicles and wants to continue to develop his skills on electrical systems, which he said is his favorite area of study.
Mohammadi gave the class’ farewell address at the end of the ceremony.
“When we started, we were nothing. Now, we are professionals,” he said. “The Koreans taught us with love and honesty. We want to continue the friendship between Korea and Afghanistan and we will always do our best to build back this country.”
When the graduation was complete, the combined message of all speakers was clear: Hopefully the students can use their skills to help rebuild Afghanistan in the way the skilled laborers of South Korea did a half century before.
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