Moonlighting for Humanity

 

Written by Maj. Lorraine Januzelli

 with Chaplain Clay Anstead

 - Published - Dec. 14, 2004

   

CW5 Pace sits with Asedullah in the Jegdalek village.  Pace is helping Asedullah get treatment for a heart condition in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

CW5 Pace sits with Asedullah in the Jegdalek village.  Pace is helping Asedullah get treatment for a heart condition in the U.S.

BagHRam – Earlier this week, Soldiers of the 1-211th Attack Helicopter Battalion helped local civil affairs officials distribute clothing and basic goods to children in a nearby orphanage.  As the crew for one of America's most lethal aircraft, the AH-64 Apache, their role as humanitarian aid supporters was not anticipated.  The 1-211th deployed to Afghanistan because of their specialized skills as pilots, refuelers, and mechanics.  From the start, their mission in Afghanistan was clear: provide aerial escort to forces moving on the ground and through the air.            

            Aerial escort missions keep the 1-211th well occupied.   Transport of people and equipment from place to place is routine and necessary everywhere in the world.  However in Afghanistan, neither roads nor airspace are completely safe.  In this nation struggling for stability, the 211th provides an indispensable measure of security.  

            Decades of war and the attendant instability have had far reaching consequences.  Most Afghans live in abject poverty.  Their plight has not gone unnoticed by the 1-211th.  The Utah Soldiers increasingly have spearheaded efforts to bring aid and resources to those in need.  In short, these warriors moonlight as humanitarians.

Chewing gum is a newly discovered pleasure for the children at the orphanage.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

Chewing gum is a newly discovered pleasure for the children at the orphanage.

This summer, the 1-211th adopted the rural village Jegdalek and began to regularly deliver basic goods there.   A young girl named Halima was helped in getting much needed eye surgery.  They also facilitated regular visits by healthcare practitioners to Jegdalek.

            A few weeks ago, the unit adopted another group in need: a nearby orphanage of 500 boys and 150 girls.  The orphanage is desperately poor.  The caretakers do their best, but resources are scarce.  This week, the 1-211th, along with a local civil affairs unit, helped relieve some of the pressure.  They spent a day distributing clothing, school supplies and basic hygiene necessities to the children.  For many, this was their first contact with Americans, and their first opportunity to enjoy a stick of gum.  The supplies came from a combination of sources, including the Army’s humanitarian aid program and care packages from family members here in Utah.

A young orphan is thrilled with his new glasses.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

A young orphan is thrilled with his new glasses.

           

A senior 1-211th pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Layne Pace, has taken on a particularly noble but difficult cause.  Asedullah, an 11 year-old boy from the Jegdalek village, has a grave heart condition.  He can barely walk 15 feet without collapsing.  The hospitals in Afghanistan are not able to treat him. Once this was discovered, Pace began organizing treatment for Asedullah in the U.S.  The obstacles have been tremendous.  Everything –from locating a suitable hospital to arranging for travel visas for Asedullah and his father –has required numerous and often redundant actions. 

            Undaunted, Pace has persisted.   At this writing, Loma Linda Children’s Hospital in Loma Linda, California has accepted Asedullah and a cardiac surgeon has agreed to do the surgery for free.  The organization Gift of Life will cover his medical costs. However, many obstacles remain, including wading through the new visa requirements affecting Afghan citizens and finding a host family in Loma Linda.  Pace is hoping to resolve these remaining issues in the next couple of weeks.  Not surprisingly, Pace was materially involved with helping Halima with her eye surgery in September.

A disabled orphan chuckles as a 211th Soldier takes his photo.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

A disabled orphan chuckles as a 211th Soldier takes his photo.

Deployments are inherently difficult.  Soldiers live in austere conditions, away from family and the comforts of modern American culture.  Their missions can be dangerous and are frequently fraught with the stresses of urgent, last-minute changes.  Tedium can permeate leisure time. 

            Everyday the Soldiers of the 1-211th make a choice – to be overwhelmed by their circumstances, or instead to make to difference.  These Soldiers have embraced the latter, not only through their professional approach to their duties, but also in their efforts to bring aid and relief to those less fortunate than themselves.   During their eight months in country, the 1-211th Soldiers have accomplished what many people miss in a lifetime – they’ve made this world a bit better place for others.

 

 

A Soldier keeps watch as the goods and supplies are delivered to the orphanage.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

 A Soldier keeps watch as the goods and supplies are delivered to the orphanage.

 

AH-64 Apache flies a mission over the rugged Afghan landscape.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

 AH-64 Apache flies a mission over the rugged Afghan landscape.

 

The 211thand fellow Task Force Pirate members gather together for an impressive photo.

Photo courtesy of 211th Attack Helicopter Battalion

in Afghanistan.

 The 211thand fellow Task Force Pirate members gather together for an impressive photo.