KABUL, Afghanistan (February 21, 2008) – Soccerballs are saving lives in Afghanistan.
Steve Kosier, a DynCorp International advisor to an Afghanexplosive ordnance disposal team under a State Department WeaponsRemoval and Abatement contract, knew he had to get the attention ofvillagers living among dangerous ordnance left from several decadesof warfare.
“After 35 years of war, there have been a couple of generationsraised around these items that have been laying around. [Thechildren] know where they are, and the best we can do is to educatethem and get them to participate to help make their country safeagain,” said Steve, who is from Aurora, Colorado.
The problem was immediate but communication was hard. Colorfulinformational fliers weren’t doing the job of locating the weapons,so he came up with an idea that children might relate to:information for soccer balls.
After a regular presentation to villagers about explosive ordnancedisposal (EOD), Steve asked the children in attendance to raisetheir hands if they knew the location of any unexploded ordnance.Not one hand was raised.
Steve then produced two soccer balls. He asked the children ifthey wanted to learn how to earn a ball, and was answered with aresounding yes. It was simple, he said. Lead his team to unexplodedordnance and earn a soccer ball. Four hands immediately wentup.
“The villages and children have been talked to by many otherorganizations and, as far as they were concerned, we were justanother one on the long list. So, I was thinking, what could we doto make us different and stand out to the kids to make an impact intheir minds? If we don’t do anything different, then they willforget about us as soon as we leave,” he said.
The children led the EOD team to a nearby footbridge that wasbuilt using high-explosive rockets as supports.
The following day, the children led the team to a village wherethey found and destroyed several Soviet-era sub munitions.
The children also took the team to a remote village. There, theteam excavated and destroyed a former Soviet high-explosive bomb.The children received their soccer balls.
So far, the team has recovered or destroyed more than 150explosive remnants of war weighing more than two tons. In onemonth, they distributed 50 soccer balls and trained more than 2,200children not to tamper with any of the dangerous devices theyfind.
“[The kids’] faces light up when they see the balls, and when wedrive around we always see numerous kids playing in the fields withour soccer balls, where previously there were no children,” Stevesaid.
The children aren’t the only ones who are happy with the simpleprogram of soccer balls for information; their parents are as well.They thank Steve and the team for removing and disposing of theordnance.
About DynCorp International
DynCorp International (NYSE:DCP) is a provider of specializedmission-critical services to civilian and military governmentagencies worldwide, and operates major programs in law enforcementtraining and support, security services, base operations, aviationservices, contingency operations, and logistics support.Headquartered in Falls Church, Va., DynCorp International hasapproximately 15,000 employees worldwide. For more information,visit www.dyn-intl.com.