Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marines Host ‘Shura’ to Address Afghan Needs

HELMAND PROVINCE, Forward Operating Base Sangin, Afghanistan – At a patrol base near the Sangin District Center here, a group of Marines joined a “shura,” or meeting, held by local village leaders, Sept. 3. By participating in the shura, which is similar to a town hall meeting, the Marines can determine what the villagers’ need and identify the best ways to improve quality of life for local residents.

Maj. Mark DeVito, team leader, 3rd Civil Affairs Group, TF 2/7, talks to local village leaders at Patrol Base Nabi during a shura held Sept. 3. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Steve Cushman)

Since deploying here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, has focused its efforts on bringing peace and prosperity to the Afghan people. Organizing and working with local Afghans on various civil military operations projects is one of many tools used by civil affairs Marines to strengthen relations with local residents.

“The people think highly of the Afghan National Army; they want to support the government, and they want the Taliban out,” said Maj. Mark DeVito, team leader, 3rd Civil Affairs Group, TF 2/7. “As a community, they need to determine what affects the most people. They sometimes have a hard time working on the prioritization for the projects they want completed. Their biggest concerns are improvements to irrigation and the renovation of several mosques.”

While the primary focus of the shura was to meet with Afghan leaders and adult males in the community, civil affairs Marines are also engaging young adult men in separate shuras. CAG Marines have found that trying to influence the young men is important because they feel they are more likely to be negatively influenced by the Taliban.

“We had around 20 young adults show up for the first teenage shura. One of the biggest things they all wanted was jobs. They were all willing to work,” said Cpl. Eric E. Cuevas, a civil affairs NCO (noncommissioned officer).

“When we asked them what they needed to benefit their community, they responded by saying a mosque. No matter how we tried to get around it, they kept saying they wanted more mosques,” Cuevas explained. “They also said they needed a water pump, because they haven’t had power for almost a month. We asked what other things they wanted, and they said they wanted a school.”

Helping the Afghans rebuild their schools is one of the Marines’ top initiatives, as education is very important to the local people. The parents all seem to understand the importance of education, and they want their children to go to school. Likewise, the teens and younger children have also expressed a desire to return to school.

Article by Cpl. Steve Cushman, Task Force 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division

No comments: