Soldiers look for perfect holiday gift at Bagram bazaar

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Written by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs Saturday, 18 December 2010 00:24

 

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - A shopkeeper stands by his store in the Bagram Airfield bazaar Dec. 11. The bazaar brings in more than $30,000 into the local economy on a typical weekend day. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pfc. David Wagner and U.S. Army Spc. Manuel Chris Gomez, both ammunition specialists with the 592nd Ordnance Company out of Billings, Mont., entered the parking lot lined with connexes with the same goal in mind.



The two Soldiers were shopping at the bazaar Dec. 11 on Bagram Air Field for the perfect Christmas gift that symbolizes Afghanistan.

“I got my mom, dad, brother and sister a gift,” said Gomez, a native of Murietta, Calif. “I’m just looking for something that represents Afghanistan to send back so they see what we see here in a sense.”

Almost an hour later, they each carried a couple bags in their hands with the treasures they had found.

“I bought some jewelry,” said Wagner, from Wheatridge, Colo. “I’ve got a little lady back home. They’re really good on bartering here. I paid $34, and he started me off at $60.”

Even though they only bought a few small items, the Soldiers said just walking around and looking at all the items the bazaar had to offer was a lot of fun.

“Down there,” Gomez said, motioning to a store at the far corner of the crushed stone lot, “they have a lot of really nice wooden boxes and chests; you can really see the work they put into each one.”

Marble chess sets adorned with “United States” and “Afghanistan,” hand-carved wooden chests, jewelry boxes and other items, traditional clothing, scarves, carpets and flags, leather jackets, purses and handbags, antique swords, knives, guns and other weapons, tea sets, weaved baskets, and embroidered patches are just some of the things servicemembers and civilians on Bagram Air Field can find at the bazaar.

The bazaar features more than 30 local vendors, most from Parwan Province. Wagner said he likes the fact that most of the vendors are from the local area.

“I like the culture,” Wagner said, as he looked along the row of connexes around him. “When I came here, I didn’t think we were going to have the opportunity to be part of a bazaar like this, and the culture here is something I definitely wanted to wrap my head around. This place definitely gives you an opportunity to do that.”

U.S. Army Pfc. Anthony Weir, a medic with the 832nd Engineer Company, attached to the 1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Red Horse, was also shopping at the bazaar. He agreed that many Soldiers are seeking something that represents their time here when shopping at the bazaar.

“If it’s something authentic, that was made here, that I couldn’t find anywhere else in the world, that’s what makes me buy it,” said Weir, who lives in Monticello, Iowa.

U.S. Army Pfc. Chad Cosens, also a medic and with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 334th Brigade Support Battalion, Task Force Archer, had his own strategy for Christmas shopping at the bazaar.

“I’m just looking around for Christmas presents, taking pictures of stuff and emailing them to my family to see what they like,” said Cosens, from Madrid, Iowa. “I probably won’t end up sending it til after Christmas, but it will still be nice to get them out a package.”

Cosens said he enjoyed the antique weapons and currency, which he said one of his brothers may also enjoy, although his older brother is difficult to shop for.

“My mom, she’ll probably like just about anything,” Cosens said. “Maybe some jewelry ...”

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Halbur, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-34th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, Task Force Archer, is the officer in charge of the bazaar. Halbur, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said TF Archer, which is made up of the 2-34th Bd. Special Troops Bn. and the 334th Brigade Support Bn., is working to improve the infrastructure of the bazaar, which is run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. He said the task force inherited the bazaar from the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

“The real point of the bazaar is to form a counterinsurgency operation,” Halbur said. “It’s to bring local money to the locals in Bagram.”

Halbur said the bazaar typically brings in about $15,000 on weekdays and more than $30,000 a day on weekends to the local economy.

TF Archer plans to make some changes and upgrades to the bazaar to improve it for the servicemembers, civilian contractors and local nationals who use it, Halbur said. He said among the improvements the unit is working on is the addition of a boardwalk around the shops lining the lot, so customers are walking on a solid surface rather than the crushed stone. Halbur also said the task force is working on adding a pavilion as well as a working bakery, so customers can buy food while shopping.

“You’ll be able to come to the bakery here, buy some pastries and a coffee, and shopping here will be more of an enjoyable experience,” Halbur said.

But with all of the things the bazaar offers, it seems Soldiers are happy to send a piece of Afghanistan back home for Christmas.

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Shop keepers tend to their shops at the bazaar on Bagram Airfield Dec. 11. The bazaar features more than 30 vendors and brings in more than $30,000 into the local economy on a typical weekend day. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson,Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- U.S. Army Pfc. David Wagner, an ammunition specialist with the 592nd Ordnance Company and Wheatridge, Colo., native, looks over some jackets in the leather shop at the bazaar on Bagram Airfield Dec. 11. Wagner said he was doing some holiday shopping to send home a gift representative of his time in Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- U.S. Army Spc. Manuel Chris Gomez (left) and U.S. Army Pfc. David Wagner, both ammunition specialists with the 592nd Ordnance Company out of Billings, Mont., look over some jackets in the leather shop at the bazaar on Bagram Airfield Dec. 11. Gomez, from Murietta, Calif., and Wagner, from Wheatridge, Colo., said they were doing some holiday shopping to send home a gift representative of his time in Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- U.S. Army Chad Cosens, a medic from Madrid, Iowa, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 334th Brigade Support Brigade, looks at a ring in the jewelry shop at the bazaar on Bagram Airfield Dec. 11. Cosens said he was looking for Christmas presents for his family. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Matson, Task Force Red Bulls Public Affairs)

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 December 2010 00:29