KABUL, Afghanistan -- Shredded paper, sawdust and water may seem unimportant to many people, but to others it can mean fuel to stay warm or cook food. These are small but vital comforts that members of NATO Air Training Command-Afghanistan try to provide to the people of Afghanistan on a weekly basis. As part of Operation Outreach, a community service organization, members of NATC-A spend every Friday and Saturday evening turning five parts shredded paper, one part sawdust and 10 parts water into pressed "fuel pucks" or "fuel bricks" that can burn for 20 and 40 minutes respectively. "Making fuel pucks is the cornerstone of Operation Outreach here in Kabul and has been for the last three years," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Meadows, a 440th Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron adviser and fuel puck committee lead, deployed from the West Virginia Air National Guard. "Fuel pucks may seem like no big deal to most, but when we deliver these to orphanages or shelters we know we're making a big difference in people's lives." In the nearly four months that Meadows has worked on this project, Operation Outreach has made and donated more than 1600 fuel pucks and more than 700 fuel bricks. The volunteers produce about 60 pucks and 27 bricks per session twice a week. This has added up to more than 60,000 hours of fuel for the people of Afghanistan. "This is a rewarding way to spend my Friday and Saturday evenings," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Griffin, a 440th AEAS adviser, deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "I get to work with my hands and help the less fortunate at the same time. It makes me feel like I'm making at least a small difference in the world."
The pucks and bricks not only provide fuel, but are also environmentally friendly. The shredded paper is provided by offices all around Kabul International Airport while the sawdust comes from the woodworking shop. And the process to create each puck and brick is very simple as well. The ingredients are mixed into a large container, special molds made by members of NATC-A are dipped into the container to be filled and the excess water is then squeezed out of the mold by a specially designed press. The pucks and bricks are then laid out to dry for about a week. "In addition to the advising role that NATC-A does to train the Afghan Air Force, this is just another way in which we're trying to help the people of Afghanistan continue to grow and develop as a nation," Meadows said. "Any way we can help, big or small, we want to." Operation Outreach not only helps to provide fuel to the people of Afghanistan, but the members also provide food, clothing and school supplies within the local area. Most of the items that are donated come in care packages from family and friends back home. "I feel that on an individual level we're making a significant difference," said Capt. Jason Star, an adviser with the 538th AEAS, deployed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. "Every little bit helps to make a big difference in the overall mission here in Afghanistan."