Guam Guardsmen Protect Key Civilians Helping Build Afghan Literacy Center

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CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan — Guam Army National Guard Soldiers are doing their part in helping improve literacy for the residents of one sector in this country’s capital city.

Unfortunately, they probably won’t see the true impact their presence now makes at a Kabul educational facility currently under construction.

By next year, and months after Guam’s nearly 600 members of 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment have departed the country, the Darul Aman Literacy Center will be up and running at Camp Dubbs, Kabul, site of the Afghan National Army’s Education and Training Center. The center, a six-building compound, broke ground March 2012 and won’t be completed until early 2014. By then, Task Force Guam will have completed its Afghanistan deployment. 

[Sgt. Gerald A. Fernandez Jr., team leader for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, right, watches his lane as Navy chief Kevin Locher, left, Canadian soldiers and Glen S. Glass, a civilian contractor, discuss the development of the Darul Aman Literacy Center July 15 in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

Department of Defense contractors, assisted by members of the Canadian military, are working with Afghan businessmen to build this facility. Since May, Guam Guardsmen from second platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, have provided security for the DOD contractors, who made an on-site visit July 14 with Guam Guardsmen by their side.

 

[Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Perez, center, platoon sergeant for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, escorts a Canadian soldier and a civilian around the developing Darul Aman Literacy Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 15. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

“My job requires a lot of site visits and there’s no doubt I’ll take the Guam boys with me everywhere I go,” said Glen S. Glass, liaison engineer and contract officer for Red River Army Depot, the DOD contractor assigned to this project. “I prefer to take them. I know I’ll be protected, and just knowing that, I’m able to concentrate on my job.”  

[Sgt. Gerald A. Fernandez Jr., team leader for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, watches his lane by standing in construction July 15 at the developing Darul Aman Literacy Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

The facility will serve as an education center, with the goal of bettering Afghan soldiers’ language skills, according to ANA Maj. Gen. Aminullah Karim, ANA Education and Training commander (Source: http://www.dvidshub.net).

“The Afghan Army needs literate people to professionally train new soldiers,” Karim said via the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan website. “This training center helps to make that happen.” 

[Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Perez, right, platoon sergeant for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, escorts Glen S. Glass, a civilian contractor, July 15 at the Darul Aman Literacy Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

Glass is project leader for the Darul Aman center. He currently oversees six projects, all important to the success of Afghanistan’s national security. But the Darul Aman project is the most critical of the six, he said, especially because of its $1.5 million price tag.

“All this is done between my office and the civilians I work with. But it’s critical for us to get out there and make sure the projects are going right, and that’s where the Guam Soldiers help,” Glass said. “Without the guys, I feel vulnerable. With them, I know I’ll get my work done. I know they’ll do whatever they can to protect me.” 

[Spc. Thomas Clark, left, a driver-medic, and Sgt. Gerald A. Fernandez Jr., team leader for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, transport dignitaries to the Darul Aman Literacy Center in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 15 in a non-tactical vehicle. Ahead of them is typical Kabul traffic. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

There’s a better view of Kabul, Afghanistan’s busy and crowded capital, through the eyes of second platoon. When they’re on missions, they look out through the bullet-proof glass of their vehicles. That keeps them alert, says Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Perez, platoon sergeant.

“There’s potential for danger everywhere we go,” he said. “The guys know to be professional. They know they have to take their jobs seriously.”

The Guam Guardsmen provide Glass transportation and security to many various sites. Once there, they move where he moves, always looking ahead to the next step.

[Sgt. Gerald A. Fernandez Jr., team leader for Second Platoon, Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, guards a Canadian soldier and civilian contractors July 15 at the developing Darul Aman Literacy Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. Fernandez is looked at through metal re-bars latched together for a concrete column. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

“This (the Darul Aman center) is one of my favorite sites to go to because of the way my partners are managing the work,” Glass explained. “They build amazing stuff, mostly using hand tools. They build stuff out of nothing.”

The foundations for three buildings were recently set. Two others have their cinder block walls in place, while the remaining building just has vertical columns.

When completed, the literacy center will be able to process up to 8,000 students a year, the NTM-A website states.

The site is in the vicinity of the Darul Aman Palace, a historic mansion once owned by an Afghan king but now strewn with rubble, a casualty of previous wars.