Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)
Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)
U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)
Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)
U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)
An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)
U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)
Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Leaders of the Iowa National Guard’s 734th Agribusiness Development Team decided to put a canal-cleaning project in the provincial capital of Asadabad on hold after a foot patrol along the canal showed the project to be unnecessary.
U.S. Army Capt. Pat Birgy of Mt. Pleasant, Mich., is the ADT’s finance officer and manages the Commander’s Emergency Response Program for the ADT. He explained why the ADT conducted the foot patrol along the Asadabad canal.
“This was presented as a time-sensitive, urgent need by certain members of the (Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock),” he said. “However, we still felt we should go out and assess the condition of the canal and talk to the villagers along the canal to make sure the project made sense prior to funding it.”
Birgy and more than a dozen other members of the ADT, including the ADT’s hydrologist, U.S. Army Master Sgt. Steve Holding of Jaynesville, Iowa, patrolled on either side of the canal for several kilometers March 22. During the patrol, ADT members met and talked with dozens of the Afghans who live alongside the canal.
One of the Afghans with whom Holding spoke was Hayatullah lives alongside the canal. Haytullah, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, is also a member of the Asadabad Community Development Council.
“This canal has been cleaned,” Hayatullah said. “The people who live by the canal have already cleaned it, as we do every year.”
In fact, Holding, Birgy and the other ADT members heard much the same thing from each Afghan they talked to as they patrolled down the canal.
“This experience provides further validation of the old intelligence saying, ‘Trust, but verify,’” said Birgy, who pointed out Afghanistan recently ranked second only to Somalia on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. “With every project, regardless of cost, we have to maintain a level of professional skepticism,” he added.
“Billions of dollars have been spent on efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, so one small canal project may not seem like much,” Birgy continued. “But fiscal responsibility starts at the lowest possible level, and we feel like every penny of the taxpayer’s dollar should be properly spent here.”
In the meantime, the ADT will turn its attention to why members of the provincial DAIL sought funding for the canal-cleaning project to begin with, according to U.S. Army Col. Craig Bargfrede of Ankeny, Iowa, ADT commander.
“This is an excellent mentorship opportunity for the (DAIL) director,” Bargfrede said. “It will give him a chance to identify and fix a process within his organization that obviously didn’t work properly.”
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