Monday, July 12, 2010

I'm fine thank you

Almost every morning, along with my interpreter Shafiq, I walk down to 4th Kandak (Battalion) and spend a couple hours with the S1 Personnel section. Recently one soldier has been attending a school and the other is on leave, so there has only been two people in the office. Toran (CPT) Sharif the S1 Officer, and Muhammed Hussein the current senior S1 NCO. When I come to their office it is rare that I am able to get few minutes alone with them to try and privately work on issues that they might have. Fortunately for me, they seem to have a pretty good understanding of their job, and do not need all that much outside help compared to other sections in the Kandak that we mentor. There is almost always a constant stream of people coming into the office needing of assistance.
The S1 office, in addition to their normal duties of tracking personnel and payroll rarely a day goes by in which they must also work to put some back into the Army. In the US Army putting soldiers back into uniform would be the role of a recruitor, unfortunately they are tasked with the responsibility of processing the necessary paperwork of putting a soldier back in. Men will walk into their office wearing traditional Afghan clothes, holding a couple pieces of paper which are their version of discharge papers asking to be put back into the Army. Most will claim that they were in the Army for three years or so, got out for a few months and have been working as a farmer. As a farmer they were not making very much money so they want to come back into the Army and try to help their families out. It is a good thing that people want to come back into the Army, on any given day with an assigned strength of approximately 450 men, at any one time there are approximately 40 people AWOL (absent without leave).
The past few weeks, working with the S1 section I have spent time trying to help them improve their daily perstat that they track and submit to higher. There is only so much that I can do to help them because all of their forms, and policies have been created by the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense. There are some things that I would love to just toss out, and start with a completely new form. They have a computer that is about ten years old, with my interpreter helping me understand the words in Dari I have been able to help make the Excel program they use for the perstat work. I took time to help and make the capabilities do some of the work for them.
I hate to say it one of the biggest accomplishments, which took a few nights to explain, was showing them the ability to use the "Save As" function with the computer. I discovered that they had not been saving any of the old work on the computer that they had already created. The past week it has been almost impossible to work with them, as they have been solely focused on getting the monthly payroll done for the Kandak. In the next few weeks I hope to be able to show them the ability to create individual folders for each company.
One of the most fun parts of the day is right when I show up to their office each morning. Mohammed Hussein has learned a few words of English, and will use them all at once in one breath. Typically I will walk in and say a greating in Dari to them, to which he will say "Ahh Good Morning how are you I'm fine thank you."

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