Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2012 - (Page 64)
The U.S. Army is responsible for coordinating resources and solving problems for newly commissioned members of the Afghan National Police.
WRITE TO US!
We welcome contributions to “One Last Thing.” Send personal essays of 750 words or less to email@example.com.
Social and technical challenges collide in Afghanistan rebuilding |
I HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED THE ARTIcles highlighting research efforts at Rensselaer, but the one on Science and Technology Studies (STS) resonated given where I am spending my year (“Technology + Society,” Fall 2011). Like the locations discussed in the article, here in Afghanistan the societal, geographic, technical, and economic challenges are staggering. My job with the U.S. Army is to coordinate all the resources and solve problems in building the 157,000-person Afghan National Police force. While my job provides only a narrow view of the efforts here, the work of the STS scientists has given me a new appreciation for the totality of our challenge. As I read the research insights in the article, my mind was filled with all the interconnected issues in building not only the police force but also the nation of Afghanistan. The state of progress and challenge is clear. Since 2001 in Afghanistan, electricity availability is up, more children are in school, life expectancy has increased, gross domestic product per capita has increased over 50 percent, and 71 percent of households have at least one cell phone. On the other hand, child malnutrition is up, environmental damage is increasing, and corruption and mismanagement continue
64 RENSSELAER/SPRING 2012
BY FRED GELLERT ’95
significant progress over the last benefits to the people in the short nearly unabated. Simply travel a decade. Decisions for the future, term. The challenge is for all the road in Kabul to see the progress informed by the results of the past efforts to be coordinated to provide and the challenges. Driving on a decisions, will need to consider the the best possible long-term benecrowded street choked with cars confluence of benefits and consefits without inflicting unintended and pedestrians, we pass a donkey quences so we do not negate past consequences. cart and the driver is talking on a progress with future challenges. The studies being undertaken cell phone. Businesses are busy, Of all the many phrases I have by Rensselaer’s STS department trash litters the roadway, and the heard since deploying six months are clearly on the mark and I hope air is a gray-brown haze that irriago, the one that seems most sigthey can include the Central-Asian tates your throat. Progress, yes. nificant is “Afghan right.” Emerging problems, yes. This means that the solutions Governmental and non“Afghan right” can relate to cultural norms we create here, whether the governmental, American or it can relate to being good enough for the design of a building, the proand international, military problem at hand. With lessons learned and vision of fuel, or the delivery and civilian organizations education gained, we can improve our methof medical care, must all be are all working to improve ods and make sure it is right for the long term. done so as to be proper and Afghanistan. Whether it is sufficient for Afghan needs. constructing roads and “Afghan right” can relate to culstates in the future. The effort of buildings for police stations, delivtural norms or it can relate to being the United States and our coaliering and using petroleum prodgood enough for the problem at tion partners in Afghanistan is funucts, installing communications hand. With lessons learned and damentally one of making this infrastructure, educating police and education gained, such as nation better so the world is more citizens, or creating an electronic that being done by STS, we can secure. As the nation-building conpay system, the effects to this sociimprove our methods and make tinues, one cannot help but ponety are practically incalculable. I sure it is right for the long term. der some of the same questions am personally involved in the work asked by the STS researchers. of the U.S. military and I also Fred Gellert ’95 is a colonel in the What are the benefits versus recently visited the headquarters U.S. Army with 27 years of service. consequences of our actions in of a non-governmental organizaHe is currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan for the long term? tion (NGO) that serves orphans, Afghanistan, as part of the NATO What is the interplay of technoloyouth, and severely injured people Training Mission. At Rensselaer, gy, society, people, and government and has begun sponsoring Boy and Gellert completed a master’s degree in in deciding the actions to take in Girl Scout troops. An NGO and physics. This article contains personal our mission here in Afghanistan the military are opposites in pracobservations and opinions and is not and elsewhere in the world? Does tically every way; however, I came an official presentation of the U.S. an action today lead to a challenge to realize that both organizations Department of Defense or the North in the future? The coalition workare complementary and necessary Atlantic Treaty Organization. ing in Afghanistan has made for mission success. Each provides
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2012
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2012
One Giant Step for Computing
One Last Thing
Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2012