Soldiers, ANSF, distribute 6,000 coats to rural Afghans
April 26, 2011
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Army News Service, April 26, 2011) -- U.S. and Afghan forces handed out hundreds of coats to people living in the rural village of Charwazi, Afghanistan, April 19, 2011.
All told, Afghan National Army, or ANA, and 1st Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Lethal have distributed roughly 6,000 coats to remote Aghan villages since the drive began last year.
"The coats help because many of the homes only have small wood stoves," said an ANA soldier who helped pass out the coats.
A U.S. volunteer group known as Rapport Afghanistan donated the coats, which represented another effort by the group to provide comfort supplies to people in rural areas of Afghanistan.
Months of collecting finally ended March 7, 2011, when more than 6,000 coats and 1,500 other clothing items such as gloves and hats were delivered to Forward Operating Base Gardez, where TF Lethal is based.
Rapport Afghanistan, a Minnesota-based organization, was founded in 2010 by Shawn Mingus, a friend of Lt. Col. Steve Boesen, TF Lethal commander.
Earlier that year, when Mingus heard of TF Lethal's upcoming deployment, he contacted Boesen to ask what kind of support he and his task force needed.
"He contemplated for a while and then thought of warm coats, hats and gloves," said Mingus.
Boesen recalled from his previous deployment to Paktya that many people lived and worked around the mountains without warm clothing.
"When I heard him say that I said, 'I'm on it!'" said Mingus.
In March 2010, Rapport Afghanistan began with a board of directors consisting of 10 people, one of whom is originally from nearby Khowst Province, Afghanistan.
The group organized volunteers around the U.S. to collect used coats, hats, gloves and scarves from their communities.
U.S. Bank pitched in to sponsor coat drives in five major U.S. cities, and organized the shipment of donated items to Minneapolis.
The group continued collections and accepting donations through the spring and summer of 2010.
"I had large, growing piles of coats sitting in my basement from May until November," Mingus said.
It took 50 volunteers two weekends to package, mark and transfer more than 400 boxes into temporary storage, where they waited for a shipping date.
When Mingus found out where Boesen was going to be stationed, he arranged to have the container delivered directly to his headquarters from Minneapolis, a feat that took more than 15 weeks, and plenty of patience.
The original delivery date in January was delayed significantly due to the weather and other complications that frequently impact a mountainous combat zone.
The 400 boxes were divided among each of TF Lethal's infantry companies who, with their Afghan National Security Partners, went to local villages to distribute the coats and warm clothes to Afghans throughout the province.
"We usually hand out 40 to 50 coats at a time," said Pfc. Bryston Dunkeson, an intelligence analyst for Company B, TF Lethal.
"Rapport Afghanistan is a great example of outstanding, grass-roots support from volunteers in America who donated time and money for a coat drive to donate warm clothes for the Afghan people who need them," said Boesen.