Adventures in Afghanistan
- Pamplin Media
- Central Oregonian - News
CCMS teacher Pete Goodrich returns from duty overseas
For nine months, Pete Goodrich, a teacher at Crook County Middle School, would look out upon remnants of ancient handcarved 175-foot Buddha statues.
As a history teacher, emerged in ancient Afghanistan history, it excited him.
"There was always some ancient looking building or castle around, for who knows how long," Goodrich said.
But he wasn't visiting the area on vacation. Instead he was sent for work as a civil affairs specialist for the Army Reserve.
Major Goodrich returned in September 2004 after serving nine months in Bamiyan, Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan, Goodrich was constantly reminded of the area's rich history.
"I could look out from our compound and see these famous cliffs of Bamiyan, which were a couple of miles away," said Goodrich.
Although the landmarks are described as "cliffs," the word itself hardly describes the picture.
Carved into the cliffs were two giant Buddhas, which were destroyed by the Taliban in March 2001, but remnants still remain.
The two largest statues once stood at a towering 175 feet and 120 feet tall. Within the cliffs, a network of caves, stairways, and rooms spread throughout the community.
Even on patrol through the Bamiyan Valley, the history he had once studied was unavoidable.
"On patrol at just about every valley there'd be an ancient fortified post there," said Goodrich.
Being surrounded by the dated history gave him a connection to the area's history.
"I could look out the door of the building and there was an ancient hill city sacked by Genghis Khan less than a mile a way. The history was always there, right in my face," he said.
"For me to see these places and think that Genghis Khan probably stood here looking at the hill fort thinking how can I take that down and to think that 800 years later it's still standing, was amazing," he continued.
Now that he's returned, Goodrich plans on sharing his experiences with his seventh grade social studies class.
"This will be the first opportunity I'll have to share information with my seventh grade social studies students," said Goodrich.
"Obviously, it's easier for them to get engaged when they have a personal connection with the history," he continued.
While in Afghanistan, Goodrich sent photos back to another social studies teacher at CCMS.
Overall, Goodrich had a positive experience in Afghanistan. His unit was never fired upon with rockets or mortars.
"There was a little bit of activity just before we left, but nothing major," said Goodrich.
The hardest part for him was leaving behind his wife and two sons, who are now ages 11 and 3. He was able to keep in contact with his family via e-mail and a weekly satellite call home.
Although he missed his family, Goodrich kept pretty busy with his work: Aiding in the rebuilding of three schools and the Bamiyan University.
"My big task project was finishing the reconstruction of the university. The U.S. bombed the old facility because the Taliban was using it as their headquarters," Goodrich explained.
He was also involved in the reconstruction of three other schools.
Goodrich was able to be there when the university opened, but not the other three schools.
"The (other) schools opened a month after I left. I'm trying to get the guy that replaced me to send me some photos. I'm anxious to see those," said Goodrich.
In comparison, the facilities at the university are "very modest by our standards," he said.
"It had less than what the middle school has, but by their standards it was far better than what they started with," said Goodrich.
The Army Reservist enjoys his position as a civil affairs specialist.
"The nature of my job was not to be running around chasing the bad guys," said Goodrich.
"My field is basically stabilization and reconstruction with an emphasis on government and government services," he continued.
He was also able to work closely with other people in the U.S. led coalition, including the New Zealand Army (or "kiwis" as he calls them), and members from various other national aid organizations.
Goodrich will be watching the upcoming parliament elections to gauge if he will or will not have to return to Afghanistan.
"There is always a chance I could (return). Our expectation is that we could return to Afghanistan if the mission and need is still there... It just depends on how smoothly things go," he said.
"We are all watching closely with hopes that the election will go as smoothly as the presidential election did in October," he continued.