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Humanitarian mission adds perspective

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Briana Gordillo
  • 445th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron
Afghanistan -- Anxiousness, excitement and curiosity. Those feelings are how I felt when I went "outside the wire" for the first time.

In the Air Force, my job is to work in a communications squadron. I work with records management, SharePoint, Freedom of Information Act program, publications and forms, and Privacy Act program. Let's just say, I don't get out too often. I rarely get to leave my office, that is, until I got the chance to visit an Afghan Children's school and distribute backpacks to the children recently.

On the day of the mission, it was time to leave and I was ready for anything. I, along with two other passengers, loaded up the truck. Our commander, Col. John Hokaj, was present during this mission along with the Afghan Army with a mission of establishing a relationship with the local village.

In my mind distributing school supplies and backpacks to the children would help our relationship with the villagers; with hopes of making peace. Once we drove through the gate, it didn't seem like how I was expecting it to be. I was expecting to feel scared, or nervous, but I felt excited.

It's not often you get to say that you've been to an Afghan village. The trip was bumpy and the roads were uneven. The trail to the village was mostly made of dirt and sand, but we finally reached a small paved road which led to our destination. While driving, I could see the small outlines of little tan buildings and trees. Some buildings were made of wood, but the majority of them looked like adobes.

In the distance, I could see Afghans riding their bikes and walking along the road with bags in their hands. We finally reached a bridge and the entrance to the village.

I was relieved to arrive at the village safely. Soon we reached the school and it looked just like in the movies. The buildings had no doors and many of the windows had no glass. One of the windows had a wooden plank covering it. Once I stepped through the entrance, to the right was a garden and what looked like mortar shells separating the garden from the walkway. Life for these children looks so much different from where I grew up. I was not accustomed to mortars, nor did I go to school without air conditioning.

Makes you thankful for what you have.

Looking around at my surroundings, I saw all the children lined up. The boys were placed in front of the girls and the girls had their hands on each other's shoulders. Some of the children looked extremely happy while some looked nervous. I smiled at each and every one of them as I handed them their bags of school supplies. It gave me a sense of happiness and pride, especially when the children jumped for excitement after receiving their bags.

It was near the end of our mission when we (the Air Force women) were able to distribute the backpacks inside the classrooms. We were down to the last class and one of the Afghan girls started speaking to us in English! We were all so surprised, as the young girl told us that they (the kids) welcomed us to their class and were glad we were there. When we left the school, we could see a young girl in the doorway, wearing the pink back pack we gave her.

This experience was outstanding and I am grateful I was able to participate in the mission.

I left the village today with a better state of mind, and I couldn't be happier.