My Last Tour: Educating Afghan Soldiers

ANA Mullah and Religious Officer hand out notebooks and pencils to recruits.
An ANA Mullah and Religious Officer hand out notebooks, pens and pencils to recruits in the literacy class.
TAMPA (2010-2-24) -

This week Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple returns to the Afghan National Army literacy class he visited last week. The Tampa airman asked the new recruits about their education and in turn he is quizzed about the Taliban.

Temple addressed about 100 Afghan National Army recruits. He was told by his interpreter that Wednesday was a special day. It was the birthday of their prophet, but also a sad day because it is also the day their prophet died.

During this visit, Temple brought along notebooks and pens for the soldiers so they could take notes in class.

“It was almost like it was Christmas there just seeing them smiling and so happy to have a brand new notebook, pens and pencils,” Temple said later in a conversation with WUSF.

The distribution of his gifts was orderly at first. Then fear that the supplies might run out caused the Afghan soldiers to surge forward until the Mullah and ANA officers ordered them back into their seats. It was just another indication to Temple how much education means to Afghans.

Temple took the occasion to ask a member of the class if he’d graduated high school. The soldier answered no because several wars prevented him from going to school.

Another soldier added that education is a very important thing. “If we have knowledge so we are going to have eyes we can see everything. If we don’t we are going to be like blind.”

Temple then asked the soldier if that included allowing females to be educated and was told yes. He also asked how the class felt about the Taliban burning down schools and preventing people from being educated.

“The real Taliban, they’re not doing, they’re not Talib,” another Afghan solder responded. “Actually, you know they have support of our neighbors Pakistan and Iran and they train there and that’s why they don’t want us to be educated. So that is why they are burning. A real person, a real Muslim, a real Afghan would not do that.”

When it comes to the Taliban though - the tables were turned on Temple when he opened the class up for questions. One student Temple what do he thought about the Taliban.

“I think the Taliban are extremist Muslims they are trying to take over your country,” Temple told the class.

Temple said the U.S. officers are supportive of his willingness to go before the Afghan soldiers.

“We kind of joke okay I survived today there was 100 students in there,” Temple said.
After reports last week of Afghan national police defecting to the Taliban – Temple considered that appearing before the class may be a risk. But then he get’ involved with the students and any nervousness subsides. He is also armed even though he’s outnumbered.

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