Soldier shares experiences - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Soldier shares experiences

November 14, 2005

Thomasville, Georgia-- A special surprise, straight from Afghanistan, to students at Balfour School in Thomasville Monday morning.

"I am going to visit the kids that wrote me and sent me thank you cards in Afghanistan," says Tim Watkins. That's a different type of mission for Watkins. The Thomas County deputy has been in Kabul since July. "I'm in the National Guard, and my unit got activated. We got a mission to go to Afghanistan to train Afghan soldiers," says Watkins.

Watkins' mission makes him a prime target for insurgents, who often blend in with regular Afghans. "We had a suicide bomber hit our base on September 29th. He killed nine Afghanis and injured 27. These are people we work with everyday," says Watkins.

That's one of the few realities not touched on for the fourth graders. It's also one people are glad Watkins managed to escape.

Watkins spent extra time teaching the students about how privileged they are compared to children in Afghanistan. "I learned that we should be thankful for what we have," says Cassandra Yarber. "They don't have electricity and cars, and they go to school differently," adds Caleb Autrey. "It's sad because they don't have the kinds of things we have," says Alexus Bazen.

The sergeant knows that all too well. He's left comfort and family behind for a year. "I miss the people I work with. I miss my family. It has been a challenge," says Watkins. A challenge Watkins resumes on Thanksgiving, for another eight months.

So far, the Afghan Army Watkins is training is 40,000 soldiers strong. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants 70,000.

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