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Inaugural class graduates Korean Vocational Training Center

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- "Congratulations, you guys are awesome."

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Barton Allen of Cheyenne, Wyo., with the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron, said it with a wave and a smile. His students sat among the 85 Afghans about to graduate from the Korean Vocational Training Center at Bagram Airfield Dec. 8, 2010.

They had studied a wide range of technical fields: automotive, construction, electricity, welding and computers, with students in each field also learning English. Allen taught English to the construction students. Eight months, or 700 training hours, had gone into the training of the students who sat beneath a banner that perhaps foretold their futures: "You are (the) dream and hope of future Afghanistan."

"I couldn't be more proud to be associated with them," Allen said.

A profitable journey

The Koreans broke ground on the training center on June 24, 2009. When the first class began April 8, the KVTC had students from Kapisa and Parwan provinces. Each of the new students were selected by officials from their respective provinces to attend the school.

Representatives from Fluor Corporation, which handles civilian contracting on Bagram, surveyed the school and found programs that suited their staffing needs while class was in session.

"(This is) what you would see in a vocational school or community college back in the States," said Joe Yoswa, Fluor director of public affairs.

Which is why, after months of training, each of the students graduated with a job waiting for them. Of the 85 students, Fluor hired 82 to work on Bagram. One is going to a job in Kabul and the other two will stay on at the vocational school, said Deok-Soo Kong,
director of the KVTC for Kapisa and Parwan.

"Even though you're born poor, you can make your life wealthy through your efforts," Kong said at their graduation.

From past to future


"You represent not only your own future, but the future of your nation," said Brig. Gen. Warren E. Phipps Jr. of El Paso, Texas, Combined Joint Task Force-101 deputy commanding general, to the graduates.

Ravi Sayed Muslim, a KVTC graduate from Parwan Province, said he felt very good about graduating in construction. Before attending the KVTC, he put together exercise  equipment on Bagram and went to high school. Now he has a job with Fluor and is considering going to college one day.

"I want to continue my studies... and I want to work on my skill," Muslim said.

Allen said Muslim and his classmates are very intelligent and, more importantly, able to compete for good jobs.