Fort McCoy soldiers teach English classes to Afghan refugees
Pfc. Caitlin Wilkins/Operation Allies Welcome - Opera
Sgt. David Shuster, an interior electrician with 652nd Engineer Company, Hammond Wisconsin, reads a book to Afghan evacuees as part of an English class here at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, Nov. 17, 2021. Soldiers here are stepping into classrooms and teaching English as a way to help Afghan evacuees resettle in the United States through Operation Allies Welcome. The Department of Defense, through U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening, and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan evacuees essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caitlin Wilkins, 50th Public Affairs Detachment)
FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Soldiers at Fort McCoy are teaching English to Afghan evacuees as a way to help them resettle in the United States.
The classes run Monday through Friday and give refugees an opportunity to learn how to write, read, and speak in English.
"I'm trying to give them a head start in English as much as I can," explained Sgt. David Shuster, a U.S. Army Reserve interior electrician assigned to 652nd Engineer Company in Hammond, who was a teacher for eight years before joining the Operation Allies Welcome mission. "I want them to have a better shot when they get out of here and go to their forever homes."
Afghan evacuees started teaching English classes shortly after arriving, officials say. Soldiers then began volunteering as teachers.
"I came in and just watched throughout the day and realized that they were short on people with this skill," explained Shuster. "There were less people who could do this, so they let me come here full time."
Soldiers say helping the refugees goes behind just basic needs, and is now helping them integrate into American culture.
"They're still on a military installation, but this is going to be a really good transition for them when they're out on their own, living in their own neighborhoods," said 2nd Lt. John Strojny, assigned to 372nd Engineer Company and from Pewaukee.
Students come to the school at a variety of ages and English comprehension levels, and then are separated into small groups based on these factors, officials say.Lesson vary by group, but all are learning grammar, spelling, pronunciation, reading, and math.
"For the class I taught, it was basic things like what comes after 10, what day is it, what comes after Friday and really basic counting," said Pfc. Ka Chun Yeung, a carpentry and masonry specialist with 372nd Engineer Company from Pewaukee.
Students are already mostly familiar with their new teachers. The soldiers who are now stepping into teaching roles, also work on blocks where the evacuees live and help direct them to different resources, according to a news release.
"There's students who come to me in the morning not because I'm their teacher, but because I met them outside school and now they know me," said Shuster. "I was the guy that talked to them, and now they're comfortable with me."