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TAAC-Air Soldiers, Airmen set-up school supply donations for Kabul orphanage

  • Published
  • By Capt. Eydie Sakura
  • 438th Air Expeditionary Wing
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Amon’s perspective about his deployment to Kabul quickly changed after meeting Jameela, a vendor at the bazaar at Hamid Karzai International Airport, while shopping for family and friends. He walked into a store that had bright, decorative scarves hanging all around.

He inquired about the price of the scarves and the two began an easy conversation that morphed into talking about their families. Amon showed pictures of his children and asked Jameela, “How is your family doing?”

She proudly stated she had 235 children.

“I asked her what she meant,” Amon said. “She then explained her work as a project manager at a local orphanage and how there were also 100 widows as part of the program. I was amazed at her heart and passion for those children and her job despite having a husband and six kids of her own.”

Amon, deployed from the 442nd Engineer Company as part of the Texas Army National Guard, is the squad leader for a security forces team at Train, Advise, Assist Command-Air (TAAC-Air) here. He regularly shares his experiences with family and friends on his social media site called, “Reflections of Matt the Soldier.”

“Upon sharing my experiences I mentioned how this woman and her story impacted me,” he said. “Spc. John Carter, a friend of mine, mentioned it would be good to put it out on Facebook and share a request with family and friends for school supplies. With that, we began working within our platoon to begin a school supply drive and shared this effort with the Airmen at TAAC-Air.”

This grassroots effort yielded 18 boxes and more arriving as the weeks passed by from supporters in their hometowns.

We have more trickling in and the goal is to keep this up for the duration of our time here, Amon said.

His supervisor, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Daniel Haussler, base defense operations officer, said Amon approached him because he foresaw the need to set aside some room for these supplies.

“He explained there was a large number of boxes coming in and he would possibly run out of space in his room,” Haussler said. “I asked him for details and my first concern was really ‘who are your helping?’ because I believe there are correct channels to go through to ensure we are not supplying the wrong people with the wrong supplies. After he explained what was being donated I didn’t see it being a potential threat and went into looking into room to place the boxes.

Haussler said he thought Amon’s efforts were really honorable, but not surprising.

“He has a personality that drives him to go out of his way to be an acquaintance of everyone he possibly can,” he said. “He’s always doing as much as possible to improve things around [him]. When he first approached me I did have the thought ‘oh boy, what has Amon gotten into now?’, but after realizing how much he had the matter-in-hand, I relaxed.”

The donations are passed to Jameela semi-weekly. Fellow base defender, Airman 1st Class Stephan Williams, was also touched by this story and wanted to contribute to the orphanage.

“[Williams] and his wife took the initiative to create a site to raise cash donations to the [orphanage] project manager on behalf of the soldiers of the 442nd [Mobility Augmentation Company] and Airmen of TAAC-Air,” Amon said. “I watched [U.S. Army] Spc. Justus Martinez spend $150 of his own money to help this cause. That money given almost moved the lady to tears.”

Amon’s deployment to TAAC-Air was not in his foreseeable future. As a combat engineer he was trained at Fort Bliss to do route clearance but was re-tasked to this mission at the last minute.

“We came to work with our brothers and sisters in arms in the Air Force, both here in Kabul and Kandahar, to help with the TAAC-Air security needs [as the advisors] strive to mentor and develop the Afghan Air Force,” Amon said.

This re-tasking was a difficult adjustment, but with strong platoon leadership, we immediately jumped into the job, he said.

“Our mission here is more than just toting around 45 pounds of weapons, ammunition, and body armor for 12-hours-a-day in the heat, freezing cold and rain while pulling security for the [TAAC-Air advisors] who tirelessly mentor and train the Afghans,” the Texas native said.

“We, as U.S. Army combat engineers in conjunction with [USAF] security forces, simply try to provide the security from the [possible] insider threat [in an effort to] free contractors and military personnel to concentrate on their very important job of developing the Afghan Air Force.”

He said his work with the school supplies is simply a deeper and more meaningful way they can reach out to others and display the generosity of the American spirit.

“Ultimately our work here is a tangible and desperately needed effort to reach out to people who have needs--the majority of who just want to live in peace and are tired of 40 years of continuous conflict, Amon said.