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Colonel Thomas Schuurmans


When you went to the airport and saw the sign "Welcome to Afghanistan, Please Set Your Clock Back 700 Years," you knew it was going to be tough.

 
Colonel Thomas Schuurmans of Lincoln,
currently chief of the Joint Staff of the Nebraska National Guard, was deployed to Afghanistan from February 2006 until February 2007. During the first six months of his tour he commanded an embedded training team to mentor and advise the Afghan National Army (ANA). During the second six months, Schuurmans commanded the Regional Corps Advisory Group (RCAG)-East. The RCAG-East covered five eastern provinces of Afghanistan along the Pakistan border, south and east of Kabul. Schuurmans was senior mentor to an ANA brigadier general and commanded two embedded training brigades in the RCAG-East area.
Source: All objects were loaned by Thomas Schuurmans


Colonel Thomas Schuurmans in a small village approximately 15-20 miles west of Gardez, Afghanistan. Schuurmans was on a humanitarian mission bringing supplies donated by Nebraskans. The daughter of a village elder is wearing shoes for the first time.

  Overcoming language and culture barriers text of audio
 

   Importance of mission to global war on terrorism
   Democracy will work in a Muslim state
text of audio

  Positive experience, building a school text of audio
 


Schuurmans carried the framed note from his son in his backpack during his time in Afghanistan.

Handmade rug
given to Schuurmans by Afghan National Army Brigadier General Rhamatula Rhofi, whom Schuurmans mentored and advised.


Flag
given to Schuurmans by Afghan National Army Brigadier General Rhamatula Rhofi, whom Schuurmans mentored and advised.

Medallions
given by Schurrmans as informal awards to soldiers doing an exemplary job. He also used them with the Afghan National Army, which had no formal award system. Schuurmans designed the medallions.

 

As brigade commander of embedded training teams in the Afghan National Army, Schuurmans was the senior mentor and advisor to the man on the right, Brigadier General Mohammed Akhram of the First Brigade, 203rd Corps Schuurmans worked with him every day for six months. To Akhram's right is Schuurmans's interpreter.

The average Afghan soldier was 19 years old, came from a family of 12, of which 7 were still alive, had never seen a doctor, had never seen a dentist, had never been innoculated against anything, had never been to school, couldn't read or write . . . was very far from home, in a very family-centric culture so that was tough on them, and they made $70 a month.


Historic signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Coalition forces, and Colonel Schuurmans's Regional Corp Advisory Group (RCAG) for joint training and operations. This MOA was the first in the country. From left: Colonel Schuurmans, Brigadier General Rhamatula Rhofi, and Colonel Pat Donohue, commander of the 82nd Airborne Coalition Combat forces.



Celebration in Gardez of the ANA being established in RCAG-East. Schuurmans, with his interpreter at his side, is speaking to the crowd of invited dignitaries and politicians. The woman in the burqa in the audience was one of the first women elected to office in the Afghan government.



Colonel Schuurmans seated next to the Afghan minister of education. Using discretionary funds, Schuurmans and his team constructed a school in a small village in eastern Afghanistan. In appreciation for his efforts, Schuurmans was "turbanized," a great honor.



A humanitarian mission to a village of nomadic Kuchi tribesman in eastern Afghanistan. The village school consisted of a mat and a chalkboard. Colonel Schuurmans and his soldiers were distributing school supplies donated by Nebraskans.


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Last updated 25 November 2008  

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