Faces From the Front for September 14, 2009 - 1st Sgt. Conrad Gamez
Current Unit: Provincial Reconstruction Team- Zabul
Current Position: Team 1st Sgt.
Component: Active Army
Current Location: Zabul, Afghanistan
Hometown: Cocoa Beach, Fla.
Years of Service: 19
As the 1st Sgt. for a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan, 1st Sgt. Conrad Gamez is part of an effort led by coalition forces to bring reconstruction and stability to the Zabul Province. A civil and military organization, the PRT is made up of members of the U.S. Army, Air Force, National Guard, State Department and Department of Agriculture. PRT-Zabul is one of only two U.S.-led teams.
Located in the heart of Qalat City, PRT-Zabul is a group of 120 that works closely with the Zabul province governor to establish infrastructure and systems that the local population can rely on and believe in. The team works on projects that include everything from building community centers, schools and roads to providing agricultural training. Local unskilled laborers also have the opportunity to attend mechanic, welding or nursing training at the PRT. Each course provides Afghans with marketable skills.
"We try to build the government infrastructure in a small community from the smallest element and up," said Gamez.
The PRT's goal is to give hope and a means for a better future to people recovering from war and years of oppression. Gamez believes the work PRTs are accomplishing contributes significantly to the outcome of the operations in Afghanistan.
"So goes the PRT mission, so goes the rest of the war," said Gamez. "I have been surprised by the positive reception that we have generally received from the local population, and their willingness to accept the partnership in governance that we are offering. Although we do hear the occasional anti-coalition sentiments, an overwhelming majority of the people openly accept and encourage our participation in community projects."
The team tries to improve the economy by providing and creating jobs for Afghans. For example, local contractors place bids on construction projects much like how contractors operate in the U.S. The PRT selects contractors based on past performance, capabilities and quality for the best price.
PRT-Zabul has been working with the provincial government since December 2004. Over the years, the team has built on lessons from the past to help further development in the Zabul province.
"My biggest surprise has been the gratification that I feel when I know that the combined efforts and the hard work of my team is providing a better future for the children of this country," said Gamez.
Gamez is slated to return home to his wife, son and daughter in March of 2010. Gamez is part of a family tradition of military service, with a younger brother who is currently a medic stationed at Fort Hood, a brother-in-law who is a platoon leader at Fort Stewart, a cousin in the Texas National Guard and another cousin who recently retired as a 1st Sgt. All have completed tours in Iraq.