KABUL - Embedded Training Team 6-1, from A Battery, 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, Danvers, Mass., took a collective sigh of relief as they hopped in their up-armored Humvees and headed back to Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan.
They had just completed their first mission since the death of their teammate, U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Barrett, who was killed, while on a training mission, by a suicide bomber disguised as an Afghan Soldier, April 19th 2010.
The loss devastated the 101st FA and the members of the ETT. The ETT was Barrett’s team, these were the Soldiers he was around 24 hours a day.
“It was good to get out there and help the Afghan National Army and shake some off the anxiety and nerves,” said Pfc. Christopher Capozzoli, ETT 6-1, training mentor.
“We wanted to get out there as soon as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Lacerda, ETT 6-1, training mentor. “Sergeant Barrett refused to stop working even when he was sick, he was always highly motivated and soldiered on through the toughest of times. We wanted to pay homage to the spirit of Sgt. Barrett and carry on the mission; he would have wanted us to continue to help the people of this nation.”
The next day the ETT conducted a humanitarian assistance mission to Naswan Pansat School, Kabul, with help from Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army in honor and remembrance of Barrett.
This unique humanitarian mission was the first time that the ETT simultaneously worked together with both branches of the Afghan National Security Forces, which is made up of the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army.
The Afghan policemen and soldiers distributed the donated school supplies, blankets, and clothing to the students. Some of the supplies and toys were donated by Barrett’s family.
The school’s 25,000 students are taught primarily by females. Under Taliban rule Afghan women were banned from receiving an education. Now women are leading the charge for education.
According to United Nation Education Scientific and Cultural Organization, only 28.1 percent of the entire population of Afghanistan can read and write.
“Seeing schools packed with both male and female students is a fantastic sight because these students are the future of Afghanistan, and they understand the importance of education and envision hope for their nation,” said 1st Lt. Louis Santillo, B Battery, 1-101st FA.
The conditions of the school are not comparable to that of your average American public school. Many of the classrooms were hollowed out metal shipping containers, most without desks or chairs. They learn while squatting in the dust and heat for hours on end. Some classes did not have a room at all but were being taught inside a dark hallway.
The 101st FA heard the schools pleas for assistance and has already provided 100 desks and chairs and is working to supply the school with 300 additional desks and chairs within the month.
“We are so happy that you are here, and we are so grateful for what you have done for our school,” said Habibula Hamdard, principal of the Naswan Pansat School.
“It is amazing how disciplined the students are. They take their education very seriously, but on the other hand it was heartwarming to see them smile as well, I felt we did a great thing today,” said Spc. Robert Hopkins, ETT 6-1, training mentor.
This humanitarian mission was a step in easing the hearts and minds of the ETT and begins the process to heal the scars from the loss of Barrett. The team looks onward to the task of mentoring the Afghan National Army and supporting the Afghan populous.
“The mission must go on, we must go on, we took a devastating loss, but we must continue to advance and support the Afghan nation,” said 1st Lt. Jeffrey Hartline, ETT 6-1 team leader.