BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan— Senior leaders from Task Force Warrior answered questions and informed local Afghans during a radio interview on Dec. 23 at Radio Sada-e-Azadi, also known as Peace Radio, in Jabal Saraj District of Parwan province.
Peace Radio’s audience consists of approximately 1.5 million listeners, including Afghans in the provinces of Kapisa, Parwan and Panjshir.
Col. Michael Johnson, Task Force Warrior Agri-business Development Team commander, whose unit works closely with Afghan agricultural officials, discussed his team’s mission and upcoming projects. The main focuses of his ADT are promoting animal health and educating Afghan farmers.
“Afghanistan has good farmers, the ADT just gives them new ideas,” said Johnson. He explained how the use of alfalfa has been found to help the ground produce better crops, as well as the practice of crop rotation.
One concern voiced to Johnson by Afghan farmers is the inability of the government in the past to understand and alleviate certain crop diseases. The ADT commander reported his team will identify diseases, teach farmers what to look for, and also help identify any issues with livestock. In the event of an unknown disease, an American university will help diagnose problems.
Another concern raised to the ADT commander was survival of livestock during harsh winter months. Johnson said the work of his team to help provide vaccinations and improved feed for animals should increase the overall health and chances for survival this winter.
Col. Scott A. Spellmon, commander of Task Force Warrior, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Polk, La., answered questions concerning reconstruction efforts and processes of prioritizing development projects. He also responded to specific queries concerning projects in the works.
Needs of the population and winter hardships were voiced to the commander, such as narrow roads, unpaved roads, snow and ice removal, avalanches, flooding, and over-crowded schools. People wanted to know how to get projects for their villages prioritized in the work efforts of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.
“The PRTs do not prioritize work, they take priorities from the provincial governments,” answered Spellmon, as he detailed the process of how to add projects to Provincial Development Plans. The PRTs work directly from these PDPs.
Spellmon discussed his recent meeting with the governor of Parwan, where all roads in the province listed for improvements received prioritization. Regarding the issue of narrow roads, he explained the problem as having less to do with project design and more to do with local landowners who don’t wish to sell their land to allow for wider and safer road construction. In terms of snow and ice removal, he said each province already has contracts in place and work is underway to keep roads as clear as possible this winter.
He reported on the efforts of engineers on numerous flood protection projects in each province of TF Warrior responsibility.
One resident from Parwan phoned in to the station to ask Spellmon about a new project for a school where more than 900 boys attend and teachers must work two shifts each day.
“Unfortunately, having 900 boys attending one school is a common problem in Afghanistan. I can tell you that governors prioritize roads and schools in each province, but the highest priority for schools now is for villages where children attend schools in tents,” said Spellmon.
He said next year Panjshir will have enough schools so that no child will attend school in a tent. However, there is a shortage of teachers in the province.
Spellmon was asked about work delays in the Jabal Saraj hydro-power plant project where TF Warrior is working to increase electricity for people in the district.
“The initial designs have been approved locally at [Combined Joint Task Force-101], however since the $2.9 million repair is such a large project, TF Warrior is awaiting approval from Central Command which should come within the next few weeks,” Spellmon said.
The plant, built in 1920, also uses Afghan technology which is unfamiliar to PRT engineers, yet the possibility of providing power and improving quality of life in Afghanistan drives the PRT to make this project work.
At the conclusion of the interview, Spellmon was asked to deliver a letter to the governor where local residents listed needs and concerns for their villages.
“I can take this to the governor, but I think he wants to hear directly from the people. If all of these families are at risk, I know that would be a concern to him,” Spellmon said.