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Efforts to change attitudes in the war zone - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Efforts to change attitudes in the war zone

Charikar, Afghanistan - August 5, 2010

Soldiers from Vermont and around the world are breaking bread in Afghanistan. They hope these small gestures of kindness can go a long way in changing attitudes across the world.

WCAX News Anchor Darren Perron and Photographer Lance MacKenzie are embedded with the guard. They spoke to Reporter Kristin Carlson by satellite.

Kristin Carlson: Darren Perron is now joining us from Bagram airfield where he is stationed. Darren how are you doing?

Darren Perron: Doing all right, thank you Kristin, very much.

Carlson: So what is a typical day like for a guard member? Is there a typical day?

Perron: Well, I can tell you-- well, not really-- but I can tell you they are early to rise. We've been getting up usually around 3 or 4 in the morning every day to head out on missions. There's a lot of prep work that goes on before, they don't just jump in the MRAPs and head out on the road for example-- there is a lot of prep work, discussions that go on beforehand about the mission because, of course, the object is to keep everyone safe, so we want to go into these missions as prepared as possible. So for example the lieutenants will call everyone to discuss what each person will be doing, what their role will be as they head out on a patrol or convoy. So it's early days-- long days because here we are at about 7:45 this time here and I was up at 4.

Carlson: How often do you hear explosions?

Perron: Well, we were at the police station in Charikar yesterday, we left there this morning, yesterday we heard three explosions. Unconfirmed as to exactly what they were. There was a patrol around town after with the Vermont guard-- they were trying to determine where those explosions came from-- but residents are reluctant to talk about that and I'm not sure whether that is fear-- if they are insecure with disclosing that to someone they don't know the Vermont troops-- but translators were there to try and facilitate a conversation but they were reluctant to say anything really.

Carlson: How are the Vermont guard members getting along with the folks who live in the towns? Is that difficult since they have to go through interpreters?

Perron: Well language is certainly a barrier but this is where translators are key and I think this is going to be the case for a very long time because you can see-- physically see-- people change once a translator gets involved in a conversation between our guard members and themselves, because you know if you don't understand what the person is talking about and here is a guy with a machine gun walking through your village and your marketplace in a convoy or something like that, I'm sure it can be intimidating. But having those translators there to facilitate dialogue and explain why they are there clearly makes a difference... it opens those channels of dialogue. People can talk and I think that is making a big difference once people can explain why they are there, that they are hoping to keep them safe, that their role here is to secure the area and protect them from insurgents and the Taliban-- it seems to be making a big difference. There seems to be a general connect there. Now that is in certain villages like Charikar where they seem to be supportive of this effort. It varies from village to village here, but I think that is the ultimate goal is to win everybody over if you will.

Carlson: And the Vermont guard is working with the Afghan police, are they also working with other soldiers from other countries?

Perron: Yeah they are. There is a huge coalition. In fact if you look over my shoulder here this is a memorial to 9-11 but above it all of the coalition flags are flying. They are working closely with soldiers across the world really. Last night we had a traditional sit-down dinner on the floor with soldiers from the United Arab Emirates and I left that dinner with a very unique perspective and an interesting take on the evening. Not only was the food delicious-- I ate way too much-- but I left there with the impression that some folks from all across Arab nations have a general feeling that the U.S. is not out for good, but they also fear that the U.S. has a feeling that all Arabs are our enemies, and they thought that by having these small dinners-- these gestures of kindness-- they prepared everything and completely hospitable-- that these small gestures of kindness can go a long way in changing attitudes across the world. And the commander there said to me tell one person that. And I promised I would.

Carlson: Well you've done it. Darren good to talk with you and we look forward to catching up again with you soon.

Perron: See you soon.

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