By Edward DrohanJuly 24, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - CJTF Paladin soldiers are helping the congregation of a local mosque here during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by delivering bread used to break their daily fast.
The CJTF Paladin chaplain's office coordinates unit volunteers to pick up the Afghan naan bread from a bakery on the far side of the sprawling base each day during Ramadan and deliver it to the Mosque of Sayed Jamaludia Afghani. The mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque because of its blue dome, shares a parking lot with the Paladin compound and is one of two mosques on the base used by Muslim local national employees, military members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors for daily worship.
Ramadan, which began here July 9 and ends Aug. 7, is considered the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, the month. Muslims are required to refrain from eating or drinking from dawn to sunset during the month, breaking the fast each evening with a meal known as iftar. The Blue Mosque uses the naan - a kind of flatbread eaten throughout the country - as part of their evening iftar.
Paladin members have been supporting the mosque for several years and through several deployment rotations, said Staff Sgt. James Hieb, CJTF Paladin chaplain assistant. During the rest of the year they pickup and deliver bread for the mosque's Friday afternoon service, but that changes during Ramadan.
"The bakery here prepares bread for all the local national workers on base, but they donate the bread to the mosque," Hieb said. "Every day (during Ramadan) we pick up and deliver the bread in preparation for them breaking their fast."
The volunteer soldiers - Staff Sgt. David Holder, Spec. Lexia Simpson and Hieb - also help by providing transportation for the mosque's guest speaker, Hieb explained. The speaker has memorized the entire Quran and recites it - what Hieb called "speaking from the heart" - for the congregation during the evening service.
For Abdul Kaisken, a DOD civilian linguist who has been the mosque's volunteer Imam, or worship leader, for the past 4 years, the help provided has been greatly appreciated.
"This is the fifth or sixth group that has helped us, but it's always been the people of Paladin," Kaisken said. "They help with all sorts of stuff. They have access to vehicles that we don't and it has been a great help."