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Troops help family in need

April 2, 2011

In the past few years of the Afghan war, U.S. and Coalition Forces have seen the low number of insurgent acts rise between March and April, in what we call the Spring Offensive.

During the colder months (typically November to mid-March), most members of the insurgency flee to Pakistan or safe haven regions of Afghanistan to escape the cold weather, regroup and plan their activities for the approaching spring and summer months.

As we enter this crucial time period in our deployment, my team anxiously waits to see if security and governance gains made during the winter months will hold in the face of a rested and resurgent enemy force.

A majority of the American population has become disenchanted with the war in Afghanistan in recent years, as they see American and Coalition troop levels rise while also seeing a rise in the violent acts of the insurgency.

While this is certainly cause for concern, it doesn't necessarily mean President Obama's troop surge strategy here has failed. It instead could signify the last gasp of an insurgency that knows its days are numbered and is making one, all-out frantic effort to regain its losses.

One area in which my team has seen an encouraging change is the willingness of local civilians in the Zabul province to stand up to the Taliban and rally against their attacks and intimidation.

For the most part, many Americans at home hear only reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. and Coalition Forces. But those of us on the ground are all too familiar with injuries and fatalities inflicted upon civilians by the insurgency.

Last month, on one of the more difficult days of my deployment, I had a firsthand look at the pain brought upon the innocent by the Taliban.

In the neighboring Kandahar province, a small boy about 8 years old stepped on a pressure plate improvised explosive device (commonly known as an IED) and was severely wounded.

Though he was evacuated by helicopter by U.S. forces to a field hospital at Coalition Forward Operating Base Lagman, the child died.

After escorting his young son to this base nearly 3 hours from their home village, the boy's father had no way to get his son home for a proper burial. The medical staff at Lagman contacted a doctor in our provincial reconstruction team, who asked me to find a solution.

As a staff member of the team, I am aware of the strong working relationship we have with the governor of the Zabul province and called his office to see if he was available to speak with me.

With the help of an interpreter, I discussed with the governor any options that might help the boy's father. After we laid out all the details of the situation, he not only agreed to arrange for his staff to provide a ride for the father and his son's remains, but also offered to donate a coffin and proper clothing for the boy.

He thanked me for bringing the situation to his attention and working with him to ensure the father and son's return home and the boy's proper burial.

It was a difficult thing - to see this family, who has no ties to either side of this war, affected in the way they were.

But it brought some small sense of fulfillment in my mission that I was able to help them in their time of need.

My team has now passed the halfway point in its deployment, with only the months of April, May and June lying ahead of us.

But we are aware of just how difficult those three months will be. We're prepared to face the challenges that we will face in this timeframe, and look forward to completing our mission.

As always, if you should have any questions regarding my team or our deployment, please feel free to e-mail me at

(Capt Ryan Weld is a 1998 graduate of Brooke High School and a 2003 graduate of Fairmont State College. He is the son of Roseanna Filberto of Wellsburg and the late William Weld of Toronto. For information on Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, please visit them on Facebook by searching Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul. The thoughts expressed in this column are the opinions of Capt. Weld and do not represent official policy of ISAF or the Department of Defense.)

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