A crash course in changing the world.
When I joined the Marine Corps in 2005, I thought I was entering a world of high-speed, ultra-intense combat and adrenaline. After about a year and a half of constant training, I came to find that the speed wasn't quite as high as I'd thought, and when it finally came our turn to taste the adrenaline of actual combat, things were very different than I could've imagined.
Patrols were long and tedious, days were long and that cool looking gear was sure uncomfortable. However, this wouldn't be the only unforseen difference from my imagination to reality.
In my mind, those awesome firefights never really had a place for the people. There's an entire civilization living amongst a war, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with the harm that was being caused daily by those fabled insurgents that the news talked about so much.
In many cases, the lives of these people have been adversely affected in one way or another by coalition actions during the war. That's the nature of all conflict, of course; There will be collateral damage. It simply WILL happen. Power lines didn't function for the most part, and any power that the villagers enjoyed came from their own ingenuity, and any sort of water system that had once existed, well, didn't anymore. Medicine was hard to come by, and there wasn't anything by way of mental or psychological care available. All of these things could easily be corrected with the amount of money we pour into the military security of the region, but there's an enemy presence that sought to turn the people against us through murder, intimidation, and propaganda.
How do you fight that? You can't be everywhere.
Greg Mortenson knows how. For many years, he's been promoting peace in troubled countries through the establishment of schools and delivery of supplies. He's made a name for himself in the region, earning the adoration of many leaders that he didn't even know; And in one case, finding himself kidnapped by a local extremist group.
This is an individual who didn't initially know very much at all about the construction of a school. However, by making good use of the stone local to villages, he was able to cut down on the amount of imported resources. He hired locals as laborers, further benefitting the village.
I deploy to Afghanistan very shortly, but with a different mindset than when I deployed to Iraq. I know this war can't be won by shooting. Violence only prolongs insurgency. This time, I'll go to ensure that everything that can be done for the Afghan people, is being done. My wife, an arabic major from Ohio State University, is a large part of this process and will be assisting me from home with shipments of paper, pencils and pens for the people in our area of operations. With any luck, we'll be able to drastically improve their lives with the proper tools of education. I still have much to learn about the process, but we'll give it our best shot.
I've sent an email to the organization started by Mr. Mortenson himself. With any luck, I'll get a reply and a bit of advice.