Colonel Thomas Schuurmans
When you went to the airport and saw the sign "Welcome
to Afghanistan, Please Set Your Clock Back 700 Years," you
knew it was going to be tough.
Colonel Thomas Schuurmans of Lincoln,
currently chief of the Joint Staff of the Nebraska National Guard,
was deployed to Afghanistan from February 2006 until February
2007. During the first six months of his tour he commanded an
embedded training team to mentor and advise the Afghan National
Army (ANA). During the second six months, Schuurmans commanded
the Regional Corps Advisory Group (RCAG)-East. The RCAG-East
covered five eastern provinces of Afghanistan along the Pakistan
border, south and east of Kabul. Schuurmans was senior mentor
to an ANA brigadier general and commanded two embedded training
brigades in the RCAG-East area.
objects were loaned by Thomas Schuurmans
Thomas Schuurmans in a small village
approximately 15-20 miles west of Gardez, Afghanistan. Schuurmans
was on a humanitarian mission bringing supplies donated by Nebraskans.
The daughter of a village elder is wearing shoes for the first
Flag given to Schuurmans
by Afghan National Army Brigadier General Rhamatula Rhofi, whom
Schuurmans mentored and advised.
Medallions given by Schurrmans
as informal awards to soldiers doing an exemplary job. He also
used them with the Afghan National Army, which had no formal
award system. Schuurmans designed the medallions.
brigade commander of embedded training teams in the Afghan
National Army, Schuurmans was the
senior mentor and advisor to the man on the right, Brigadier
General Mohammed Akhram of the First Brigade, 203rd Corps Schuurmans
worked with him every day for six months. To Akhram's right is
The average Afghan soldier was 19 years
old, came from a family of 12, of which 7 were still alive, had
never seen a doctor, had never seen a dentist, had never been
innoculated against anything, had never been to school, couldn't
read or write . . . was very far from home, in a very family-centric
culture so that was tough on them, and they made $70 a month.
signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA)
between the Afghan National Army (ANA), the Coalition forces,
and Colonel Schuurmans's Regional Corp Advisory Group (RCAG)
for joint training and operations. This MOA was the first in
the country. From left: Colonel Schuurmans, Brigadier General
Rhamatula Rhofi, and Colonel Pat Donohue, commander of the 82nd
Airborne Coalition Combat forces.
in Gardez of the ANA being established in RCAG-East. Schuurmans, with his interpreter at his side,
is speaking to the crowd of invited dignitaries and politicians.
The woman in the burqa in the audience was one of the first women
elected to office in the Afghan government.
Schuurmans seated next to the Afghan minister of education. Using discretionary funds, Schuurmans and his
team constructed a school in a small village in eastern Afghanistan.
In appreciation for his efforts, Schuurmans was "turbanized,"
a great honor.
humanitarian mission to a village of nomadic Kuchi tribesman in eastern Afghanistan. The village school consisted
of a mat and a chalkboard. Colonel Schuurmans and his soldiers
were distributing school supplies donated by Nebraskans.