Serving the Servicemen

March 15, 2012

An update from alumnus, Lt. Col. Pete Sniffin (M.Div. '88, right with Gen. Petraeus), a US Army Chaplain stationed in Afghanistan.

I have spent the last 11+ months here in Kabul, Afghanistan at Headquarters, US Forces, Afghanistan overseeing the Religious Support Operations for all our Service Members spread across this combat theater. That entails providing all the Religious Support planning to meet the ecclesiastical, logistical and spiritual requirements of 100,000+ military personnel spread across 450 bases in Afghanistan; some in very remote locations and none easy to get to as travel in Afghanistan is very complex and not safe. Lately it has also involved determining how we will continue to meet Service Members' spiritual needs as we reduce our overall footprint to 68,000, which is both a challenging and rewarding endeavor. I can report that there is strong ministry taking place with our Forces here and that the largest non-mandatory formations on a weekly basis are our worship services across Afghanistan.

Some photos of Lt. Col. Sniffin:

Lt. Col. Sniffin with Afghans

This is a picture of me and two Afghans who work around me daily. Every day they would ask for cups for their tea, so I gave them cups so they'd always have one (they're holding the cups in this picture). I've provided them lots of personnel supplies such as tea, snacks, shoes and healthcare items during my tour and I enjoy a warm relationship with them, even though I speak very little Dari and they speak very little English. The interesting thing with them recently is how they've kept their homes warm in the extremely cold Kabul winter. All day they hunt cardboard across the compound and then tie it together into two huge backpacks that look as big as they are. At the end of the day they carry those loads of cardboard home to burn and heat their home.

Lt. Col. Sniffin with Afghani children

In this picture, I am bartering with some Afghan kids. They are shrewd businessmen, and the one in the red shirt under my elbow was trying to sell me a pack of gum for $3 US. He told me it was worth $3 because it was "new gum." I told him $3 was too much and that'd I'd give him $2. I reached in my wallet and actually had a $2 bill, so I gave him that. The kids were very excited to see it, but the one selling me the gum was concerned it wasn't real, as they are not familiar with $2 bills. As we got in our armored vehicle to depart and travel thru Kabul, I tossed him back the gum and let him have the $2 bill and now we both have a story.