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Skype connects soldier with Rotary Club in Park Rapids

Dave W. Konshok

Lt. Col. Dave W. Konshok, who is 8,000 miles away serving with his U.S. Air Force Reserves unit in Afghanistan, had a visit with his fellow Park Rapids Rotarians this week using Skype Internet technology.

Konshok, a Park Rapids City Councilman, has been serving with his unit since July. He anticipates returning in about a month and a half.

During his brief visit with Rotary Wednesday, Konshok decided to give a brief "night in the life of an Airman" presentation.

It was about 12:30 p.m. in Park Rapids and 11 p.m. in Afghanistan.

By using Skype technology Konshok was able to see and hear the room filled with Rotarians at St. Joseph's Area Health Services and Konshok could be seen and heard in Park Rapids.

There was some lag in sound and video but that was to be expected given the distance.

"Uniforms are a big deal here," he said.

Konshok showed the typical battle clothes worn by Airmen. It's designed to be 100 percent fire proof "down to the underwear," he said.

The reason it is fireproof is because of the danger of Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs. On top of the uniform, an armored jacket is worn that has plates in it to protect the major bleed points, he said.

"The basic load weighs in at 52 pounds," Konshok said.

A helmet is worn, along with ballistic eye protection, and ammo is carried on the vest. A standard M16 semi-automatic rifle and pistol are also carried.

He always carries switch blade and multi-tool as well.

"We have to do a lot of cutting, from ropes to opening food packets," he said.

Dog tags are always on too, rounding out the uniform.

Besides the battle clothes he can wear another uniform in the evening. The Airmen are very restricted in the clothing they can wear.

"It's not hard to decide what to wear when I look at the closet," he joked.

In an interview before he was deployed, Konshok said he is assigned as the Commander of the 419th Civil Engineering Squadron, Hill Air Force Base (Ogden), Utah. While deployed to Afghanistan he is the Commander of the 577th Expeditionary Prime BEEF (Base Engineer Emergency Force) Squadron at Bagram Air Base.

Konshok's unit is providing light engineering services at the Bagram Air Base.

While he and other Airmen are out they always carry a translating book with them.

"There are more than 100 languages there and it can be quite a challenge," he said.

It's not the typical "tourist" language book, either. The first phrase in the book is not "hello, my name is," but rather "stop," and "stop or I will shoot.

Picture cards also help with communication, he said.

Despite primitive conditions in much of Afghanistan, cell phones are still ever-present. He carries one for unofficial communications and said many of the Afghans also carry cell phones.

Technology - in particular the Internet program Skype - has helped Konshok stay in touch with his family on a regular basis.

His father, Dave Konshok Sr., who is also a Rotarian, said he has been in touch with his son through Skype and it's been fun to see how the kids think nothing of it.

"They just say, 'hi, dad, bye dad,' and it's no big deal to them," he said. "The dog even sits there."

When asked if the United States is making progress, Konshok said, "Yes."

He said it's been interesting to work other countries as well, who have joined the effort.

"There are 28 countries total here," he said.

Konshok also thanked the Rotary Club for its support in collecting donations to supply food and clothing for local Afghans through Operation Care. Most of the items are clothing for children with some toys, clothing for adults, and also some personal care items for our forces unavailable to them at their locations.

Konshok said he expects to be home in about a month and a half. Until then, he will continue to stay in touch with family through Skype in between his work in Afghanistan.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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