By Sgt. 1st Class Stephanie L. CarlNovember 16, 2011
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Nov. 16, 2011) -- Religious cultural advisors from the Afghan Air Force and the Afghan National Army met with U.S. Army religious support teams from the 159th Combat Aviation Brigade at Kandahar Airfield Nov. 15 to further expand an evolving partnership.
Chaplains have been a part of the U.S. Army for 236 years, explained Maj. Brian Curry, the brigade chaplain for the 159th CAB, which is partnered with the Kandahar Air Wing of the Afghan Air Force. In the U.S. Army, chaplains help Soldiers to keep their faith and morale, similarly to their Afghan partners.
There have been many miscommunications about what American Soldiers do, said Afghan Lt. Col. Sayed Balkishah, the religious and cultural advisor for the Kandahar Air Wing.
"We have three main missions," Curry said of the chaplains. "We nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the dead."
To demonstrate how the chaplains nurture the living, Curry and his team showed the Afghan RCAs a coffee shop that was built and is operated by the religious support teams. The shop is run primarily off of donations, many of which come from schools and churches in the United States. It provides a place for Soldiers to take a break from their work, watch movies, read books, play games, or use computers or phones to talk to their families in the United States.
"This is very good for the Soldiers' brains," said ANA RCA Col. Khalilullah as he looked around the computer room in the coffee shop. "This makes morale high."
After the advisors toured the different U.S. facilities, they showed the Soldiers around their area.
"Our officers teach classes twice a month, and our sergeants teach classes twice a week," Balkishah said as he showed the Americans their classrooms. The classes focus on cultural and religious training that is guided by the Quran.
The RCAs also run a literacy program and a language program to teach their Soldiers how to read and write, and how to speak English. More than 200 Afghan soldiers participated in the last iteration of the training.
"The Quran tells us that education is important, and so we try to teach our soldiers," said Balkishah.
To help the soldiers learn, the unit has a library where they can sit and read different books.
"Our library is small right now, but we hope for it to grow bigger," said Khalilullah.
That is also how the two groups hope their new partnership will be.
"We are happy to have met you, and we look forward to continuing to work with you," said Balkishah. "We learn that we have to be related to our God and talk to our God for help, and we are both the same in this way."