KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In a new grass-roots efforts to cultivate positive U.S.-Afghan relations in the region, Army Sgt. Ted Wychowski has started reaching out to the local community by offering the free construction of front doors so that they can later have them kicked down in no-knock night raids.
"Not everything about the war on terrorism is about violence. It's also about building communities and bridging communications gaps between two vastly different cultures," Wychowski said as he removed the heel of his boot from one of the new doors and zip-tied a family of seven. "I used to go on these raids all of the time and we'd just walk through burlap flaps, or, in some really bad cases, nothing at all. We'd just waltz in, and if we didn't have any flashbangs it was almost impossible to scare anyone."
According to sources, Wychowski began the self-funded effort just a few months ago, and has already seen incredible changes in relations with the local populace. Materials can be scarce in the more remote regions of Kandahar province, but that hasn't stopped the soldier from doing his self-proclaimed duty of improving the livelihoods of the local population. In some cases, Wychowski recovers doors that have already been kicked down and refinishes them so that they're suitable to be kicked down again in another home.
"Home Depot's shipping is pretty astronomical to this part of the world," he said. "That's how they get you. I gotta make use of what I have around me. Plus, recycling is good for the environment."
Omar al-Mansour, an elder in the nearby village of Karz, is appreciative of Wychowski's efforts.
"Having your door kicked down is kind of a rite of passage, now," al-Mansour said, affectionately patting a hole in his own door. "Doors are rare in the outer villages, so a lot of kids never get the feeling of abject terror when a group of armed soldiers burst through theirs. It's a shame, really. But with this new program, more people are getting the chance to shit their beds in the middle of the night with that first crunch of wood."
"Holy shit, you gotta see this guy's [enlisted evaluation report]," said Lt. Michael Valencia, Wychowski's platoon leader. "I don't think I've ever seen someone so flawlessly integrate duty and community service as Wychowski. I wish I had thought of it first."
Even with his already-glowing reviews from superiors, Wychowski still has bigger plans in the works:
"I've got a timeline in place where I can outsource the door repairs to the local villagers themselves," he said. "All paid for, of course. After that, I'll have some time on my hands, so I plan on maybe starting a pet adoption system. We usually end up shooting the dogs during the raids, and there are all these stray dogs around. I'd like to give them good homes. You know, so we can shoot them later."