Eagle Scout Project Saves Lives,

Wins Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan

 

By Capt. Bruce Roberts

 

Published December 24, 2008

 

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Braden Welburn, right, with his siblings and friends, the Biesingers, with coats collected from Nebo School district elementary and middle schools.

Photo by Julie Biesinger

Braden Welburn, right, with his siblings and friends, the Biesingers, with coats collected from Nebo School district elementary and middle schools.

KABUL, Afghanistan Last winter brought the harshest winter conditions that Northern Afghanistan had seen in a decade, bringing reports of more than 900 deaths. When Braden Welburn, of Nephi, heard of this tragedy he was determined to help make sure that did not happen again this winter.

 

Braden, an Eagle Scout candidate, immediately made plans to collect, clean and ship winter clothing and blankets to a Utah National Guard Embedded Training Team (ETT) to distribute to needy children in Afghanistan.

 

Welburn’s Eagle project became the single most significant material contribution to Operation Golden Spike, a major undertaking intended to help the needy and further establish peace in the Tag Ab Valley of Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, during the last week of October 2008.

 

Golden Spike’s humanitarian aid was planned by 2nd Lt. Kathryn Swoboda, with the participation of all four U.S. Military Services (Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy) assigned to the Afghan Regional Security Integrated Security Command-Central (ARSIC-C) and with the assistance of the Afghan National Army.

 

A Soldier in the Afghan National Army hands out coats to children in the Tag Ab Valley.

Photo by Lt. Col. Yeager, Montana National Guard

A Soldier in the Afghan National Army hands

out coats to children in the Tag Ab Valley.

The weeklong operation resulted in the distribution of over 600 coats, gloves, hats, blankets and food items. According to Swoboda, the humanitarian mission also included a mobile medical clinic where vaccinations and other medical attention were provided to hundreds of local residents in nine different locations in the impoverished Tag-Ab and Uzbin Valleys.

 

Braden, with help from his family and the Biesinger family, of Springville, collected coats that were not claimed from ‘lost and found’ tables at several elementary and middle schools in Utah and Juab Counties. Braden had several volunteers from Nephi help clean and box the coats for shipping.

 

Welburn’s Eagle project became the single most significant material contribution to Operation Golden Spike, a major undertaking intended to help the needy and further establish peace in the Tag Ab Valley of Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, during the last week of October 2008.

 

Each box, containing 20 to 30 coats each, cost approximately $50 to ship. This proved to be a significant challenge as he had 28 boxes to send overseas. However, through his efforts and with the help of friends and family he was able to raise the money needed to ship every box.

 

A Soldier in the Afghan National Army gives an armful of blankets to a village elder in the Tag Ab Valley.

Photo courtesy of 1st Lt. Jared Jensen

A Soldier in the Afghan National Army gives an armful

of blankets to a village elder in the Tag Ab Valley.

“It is amazing to think of a young man that age who is able to think beyond himself enough to take on a project like this,” said Marine Sgt.  Major Patrick Dougherty. “Very impressive!”

 

“This operation is significant in terms of securing peace in the Tag Ab Valley, but more important, hundreds of kids will be warm tonight . . . and that’s enough.” said 1st Lt. Will Biesinger, a member of the ETT and whose family assisted Braden with the project back home.

 

While it is likely that Braden’s efforts will help him earn the coveted title of Eagle Scout, there can be no question in the minds of American and Afghani military members involved in Operation Golden Spike, or the needy people of those remote Afghan valleys, that his efforts were a manifestation of the honor and selfless service embodied in an Eagle Scout.

 

A service project of one young man from Utah may well have saved the lives of hundreds and contributed to the military objective of winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people in the Tag-Ab Valley.