FOB Shank bazaar offers Soldiers an escape from daily grind
Sgt. Victor Everhart,
3rd BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
LOGAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN – The streets are busy with Soldiers buying gifts, trinkets and collectables for family members, fellow Soldiers and loved ones. The area is packed and stores are filled, allowing Soldiers to feel a little downtime while shopping at the market area at Forward Operating Base Shank here.
FOB Shank’s bazaar, which features shops, restaurants and salons, offers Soldiers a way to separate themselves from the daily grind of a deployment and offers a welcome form of stress relief.
“I believe having the market here relieves huge amounts of stress,” said 1st Lt. Zandra Cole, a 125th Brigade Support Battalion night battle captain. “Outside of shopping for family, being able to go eat a meal with friends and co-workers at a restaurant allows Soldiers to relax and enjoy some personal time outside of the Army.
“That’s huge when you consider the fact that Soldiers normally don’t get any ‘off’ days while deployed, so being able to take an hour out of your day to yourself whether it be going to eat or looking for gifts for your family, it’s always good to give the daily grind a break,” said Cole.
Soldiers and the shopkeepers alike feel the benefit on both ends of the spectrum.
“I feel and know that the money earned from working on the forward operating bases throughout theater helps support not only the communities, but also helps provide for their families and gives local nationals a view of how Americans and coalition forces are as people as well,” said Cole.
“I believe it builds bonds and gives young coalition Soldiers a chance to interact with the local population for those that don’t leave the wire or who don’t go on patrols,” said Cole.
But with all the benefits of having local-national market areas also comes the responsibility of maintaining the relationships with shopkeepers themselves.
“I coexist with the shopkeepers in the aspect of a boss/employee/friend relationship,” said Cole. “However, this is also a way that improves the current relationship with the Afghan community and military operations.”
On a regular basis, Cole said shopkeepers come to her to talk about personal endeavors like marriage, furthering their education and other personal issues. She said she tries her best to give them the best advice she can, remembering the cultural differences that exist between her and the locals.
“I act as their first-line supervisor,” said Cole. “I assist them with all paperwork required to gain access to the [FOB], explaining their concessionaire agreement between the shop owners and the government.
Cole said she takes pride in the positive working relationship she has with the locals and is proud of the benefits they bring to coalition forces.
“We currently have over 50 stores in the bazaar, three restaurants, and four beauty/barber salons spread across the [FOB],” said Cole, “all giving Soldiers the ability of getting away from the daily grind and helping the local nationals bring money into their homes and communities.”
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