My Last Tour: Libraries and Literacy

Situation Normal All BAF-fed Up sticker on an electrical panel at the Bagram bas
Situation Normal All BAF-fed Up - SNABU sticker on an electrical panel at the Bagram base in Afghanistan.
TAMPA (2010-3-16) -

Some fights in Afghanistan are waged in the classroom not on the battlefield. One of the fiercest opponents is the estimated 80 percent illiteracy rate among Afghan National Army recruits.

Senior Master Sgt. Rex Temple and his embedded training team have been contributing to literacy efforts for Afghan soldiers throughout Temple’s yearlong deployment.

“There are various literacy classes being conducted,” Temple said. “They have a very large one for just very basic things such as hygiene, how to pray how to read and write Dari.”

The Tampa airman said Afghan officers are also learning English. To help in that effort, he’s donating hundreds of books.

“We’re going to open up a new library for them. I had to sort through the books and determine what was appropriate and inappropriate to include some religious articles stories about pigs and things like that,” Temple said.

It’s not the first library Temple and his team have built. At another Afghan Army base, they turned an abandoned building into a library for the soldiers.

But when he visited that library a few months later, he found the shelves stripped bare of its books and magazines. And he’s never been able to find out what happened.

His new base already had a structure, so shelves and books were the only things needed. The grand opening is set for Thursday. Their existing library had only 100 books.

“In addition they have a very small literacy classroom that we’re going to move all the tables and chairs to the new facility,” Temple added. “The new facility is much larger and that will allow more people to participate with the literacy classes.”

In his other adventures this week, Temple visited Bagram Air Field and found a couple of signs that gave him a chuckle. One was a green and white sign with a very large “P.” Written underneath: Combat Parking Only.

“I asked my army brothers, I asked what is combat parking? How do you combat park? They didn’t know either,” Temple said.

He just added it to his list of “BAF mysteries” along with the bumper sticker he saw stuck to the electrical panel at the Bagram base’s food court. It played off the old WWII acronym SNAFU – Situation Normal All Fouled Up.

Only for Afghanistan it’s SNABU – Situation Normal All BAF-fed Up -- BAF being the acronym soldiers use for the Bagram base,

Temple tried to find the origin of SNABU, in part because he wanted to buy a dozen or so of the stickers for himself, but, his hunt unsuccessful.

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