Story and photos by MC1 Gino Flores
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Coalition forces instructors at the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest aboard Camp Leatherneck, Helmand province, have stayed on target training Afghan National Security Forces throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and its accompanying sunrise to sunset fast.
Ramadan is held during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is when Muslims fast. During Ramadan Muslims are forbidden from consuming food or drink, including water, during the day.
The students’ strict observation of the fast has created a need for flexibility at JSAS. Class and meal hours have been adjusted to allow ANSF students attending courses to observe the rituals commanded by Islamic tradition.
“Training during Ramadan can be difficult because the work day starts when you normally would be sleeping,” said Cpl. Evans Burcaw, an instructor for the Small Arms Weapons Instructors’ Course and native of Tomball, Texas. “We don’t work students during the hottest time of the day when they’re fasting. However, we do make provisions to keep them on schedule and on target until graduation.”
“The emphases on standards remain despite the altered scheduled,” he added.
Some courses have also been adjusted to make the learning experience more focused and efficient by adding instructors and interpreters.
“This allows us to break up students into smaller groups,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Brockman, an instructor and the officer in charge of the SAWIC course and a native of Campbellsville, Ky. “We are able to provide immediate attention to each student, answer more questions and get done faster,”
Afghans attending training explained that the thirst and hunger brought on by the fast has been most challenging on the outdoor shooting ranges, where temperatures creep past 100 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.
This year Ramadan started Aug. 1 and will end Sept. 29 or 30, depending on the lunar eclipse. Ramadan is followed by a three-day holiday, Eid al-Fitr (festival marking the end of Ramadan), said Wali, a linguist working for coalition forces.
“The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr is what Christmas would be for Christians,” Wali explained.
Fasting during Ramadan offers Muslims time for reflection, self-awareness and self-determination in accordance with the Quran.
“The fast is also one of the five pillars of Islam,” said Lt. Asif Balbale, a U.S. Navy Muslim chaplain visiting Regional Command Southwest for the duration of Ramadan. “The reward for every good deed in this month is multiplied.”
As students at JSAS continue toward graduation, they have kept their faith while holding on to tradition.
More photos here.