Deployment Stories: Working With Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan

Posted by Ted Kanamine
April 8, 2009

Ted Kanamine serves in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

I’m Ted Kanamine. I’m a engineer and infrastructure advisor to the Army Corps of Engineers. I’m detailed to the State Department’s office of the Secretary – or Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS). I’ve been to Afghanistan twice. The first one was in 2004. And I was an infrastructure advisor to one of the deputy ministers of defense, the Afghan deputy minister of defense for military installations. And I was there in my advisory role as an infrastructure advisor. My second deployment to Afghanistan was a short experience. I was there as a – then as a member of S/CRS, where I was a planning advisor/ facilitator to the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in several provinces.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. And I would say that my first deployment, I was able to travel through most of the southern part of Afghanistan, Kandahar all the way to Kabul and then parts south towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. I was able to, pretty much, do the same thing on my second deployment, but spent more time in the cities: Sabul (ph), Ghazni (ph), Shirana (ph). I felt very – from both experiences, they’re very different. But the – probably, the experience the first time there as a advisor to the deputy minister for defense focused on providing the military planning for then the new Afghan army and so we were able to actually site the locations around the southern portion of Afghanistan for then the nascent Afghan army brigades.

The second time there working with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, a little bit more embedded in the communities and quite a bit less military related probably common across the board for both were the amount of planning that had to be involved. And it was my first experience there where I realized how much interagency experience needed to happen and wasn’t there, wasn’t present in what I felt was necessary the first time. And the second time was simply just the effort to try to make that happen.

I was under – I was probably in danger the whole time I was there, but I have to honestly say I never felt in danger. Yes, you spent a lot of time and effort worrying about this the of security and of conditions that were in. It was – they’re austere conditions. The – it’s a little bit the environment is not quite as safe in terms of food and health and sanitation. But you know, one gets dirty when you go camping here in the States, too. It’s just a little more hazardous, a little less – you just have to pay attention a bit more. Of course, you don’t have to worry so much about traffic in some of these other places, like you do here in the cities of the U.S., so it’s a different kind of risk.

I would definitely go back. It’s a personally rewarding experience, a very professional experience. Perhaps, if I could sum up one of the things that – one of my most memorable experiences was visiting a cantonment area for the DDR: the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration site. These are for weapons that were supposed to be in a cantonment area. It was in an out-of-the-way place near Kabul, not in the city, but just on the outside, and walking around with some of the Afghan ministers, some of the assistants -- and this is toward the evening, toward dusk -- and sure, on one of the small huts that had been obviously blown up in some of the civil war, two old gentlemen heated over brazier.

And we just sort of walked around the building and we started with each other. They were clearly – clearly, it was the only thing they had. There was nothing else around. And they had the graciousness to say, “Please come and stay with us and share our tea.” And there was only two cups and three of us, so we had to – obviously, had to beg off and say no, we really couldn’t, we had to go on. But you know, we didn’t want to – we were sorry for disturbing them. But it was certainly a memorable moment. Just told me the graciousness, the – just the wonderful qualities of the people there, about how much they can be, despite all of the tragedy and everything that goes on there. I would definitely go back.

Related Entry: Ambassador Herbst discusses S/CRS and the Civilian Response Corps.

Comments

Comments

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
April 11, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Hi Ted,

Got a kick out of your "relative" assesment of risk between the states and the "stan".

I live in a rough neighborhood and there are definately those times I think I'd be safer there than here.

OBO's had a long standing offer since I saw the innards of the old embassy in Kabul via photos in 2001.

"Have paintbrush, will travel." wasn't a joke. Too bad KBR didn't follow up on my offer.

Would have been one heck of an adventure for a journeyman house painter, and a worthy project.

Can you update a point of contact for me?

I figure you folks can still use all the help you can get.

hanuman
|
Iraq
April 14, 2009

Hanuman in Iraq writes:

Nothing to say.

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