Fudge Aids in Afghanistan
By Renee Burrell with 1st Lt Dustin Koslowsky
"What is fudge?" two Afghanis asked after tasting some given to them by Air Force 1st Lt. Dustin Koslowsky of Seminole
Most people would agree that sharing one's chocolate has to be one of life's most selfless acts. So when Nick Simeone, a Public Affairs officer with the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon, contacted us about a soldier from Seminole who did so while serving his country in Afghanistan, we had to share the story with readers.
Wrote Simeone, "While recently working on building a bridge in rural Afghanistan, Tampa Bay resident Lieutenant Dustin Koslowsky met up with some Afghans who, for the first time ever, tasted fudge."
Lt Koslowsky's mother sent him homemade fudge over the holidays last December. After presenting it to Afghan doctors and clinic workers, he had some fun when writing to her and described the goodwill mission in the form of a news report copied here:
On the 16th of December 2008 a small team from the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) lead by 1st Lt Dustin Koslowsky, visited a remote clinic in Dara District, Panjshir Province, Afghanistan. The purpose of there visit? To perform a routine quality assurance inspection of a kitchen the PRT has been constructing the past few months. But this visit is not going to be as routine as the last…
The normal greetings and pleasantries were exchanged, as the team approached. Hand shakes and words of blessing filled the air, “As’Salam Walakam!" (Peace be upon you!) "Mandan a bashi!" (May you never be tired!) "Jor bashi!" (May you always be healthy!) And then the team moves on to inspect the facility. Review of the facility reveals that there are still some items the contractor must accomplish before the PRT accepts the project, but overall it is a sturdy building. The clinic's doctor then invites the team in for chi (tea) and lunch, as is customary and required by the code of hospitality the people of Panjshir live by. Whenever the PRT visits, they will usually stay for chi, but staying for lunch is uncommon. In this instance however, an exception is made.
Moving into the small but neat room, we are met by the warmth of a wood stove and the smiles of the clinic workers. As lunch is prepared, the Lt removes something that resembles a brick from his outer coat pocket. It is a 9 by 4 ½ by 1 inch block of fudge, sent with tender loving care all the way from Seminole, Florida by the Lieutenant’s mother.
As he cuts the fudge into 1 inch cubes, he explains that this is a delicacy that is prepared by his mother during the holiday season, and that he wishes to share it with the people of the clinic because of their unwavering hospitality and patience. Then comes the first question as the interpreter Tiab has finished translating, “What is fudge?” So the Lt sums it up the most direct way he can, “Chocolate.” Only this is by far some of the richest chocolate they have probably every experienced.
The doctor takes the lead by trying the first piece. He must like it. The enthusiasm in his voice is unmistakable. The other members of the clinic staff follow suit, and soon the enthusiasm extends beyond the tiny room we are all packed into, as the plate is passed around the other rooms of the clinic.
The fudge is a hit, and the relationship between the PRT is made just a little bit stronger.
This May 2009 will mark Lt Koslowsky's third year in the military. A native Texan, he holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Florida. His permanent duty station is Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
The twenty-six year old celebrated his birthday yesterday, March 4 and was deployed this week for yet a third tour to Afghanistan. He described the work he'll be helping with and the Afghanis attitude toward the US soldiers.
"Our primary effort right now is construction on 70km (about 43.5 miles) of highway to finish the main road though the province. We have several other roads that we are planning and hope to start this summer to connect outlying villages to the main highway that runs/will run through the center of the valley. Over all, we have a little over 30 ongoing construction projects (right now the snow in the area has halted most of the construction). These include schools, clinics, irrigation canals, micro-hydro power plants, roads, tree farms, and small drinking water distribution systems."
"The Tajiks and the people of Panjshir are pretty accepting of us and they understand why we are there. They have invited the PRT into the valley and they consider it a part of their honor to ensure our safety. As a result, we are able to get out and talk with people one-on-one which helps build understanding between us and the communities. Kids love us, I think mainly because we give them lots of swag when we’re out and about…"
Lt Koslowsky's unit is in the historically busy Panjshir Valley. The Panjshir Valley is, "…famous for having repelled the Soviets as well as the Taliban," he reminded.
"The only violence there is between individuals with personal conflicts--with each other or between villages every once in a while. Other areas, such as southern Kapisa, are influenced heavily by the Taliban and are very hostile towards the coalition. But we have always had problems in many of the areas, and when you think about it, it really makes sense. All the Taliban has to do is convince the village that we (the US) are no different than the Soviets, and when you’re talking about people that don’t have access to television or radio and probably can’t read but know that every other time a foreigner has come into his country he loses a son or a brother, you have a pretty easy mark for recruiting a jihadist. As long as we keep on course by tracking down the people instigating the violence and continue to enable the Afghan government to extend its ability to effectively govern at all levels, we’ll see improvement."
To learn more about US and coalition troop' efforts in Afghanistan, Lt Kozlowsky recommended checking the website for the Combined Joint Task Force -101 Operation Enduring Freedom at: www.cjtf101.com
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