Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan — When the Taliban took power in 1996, they imposed a new way of life and removed basic freedoms for the people of Afghanistan. Among those freedoms was the banishment of art.
For more than a decade, art has been missing from this historic society. So a group of 39 artists from Task Force MED wanted people to understand Afghanistan’s colorful culture and what better way to convey this but through art.
Master Sgt. Al Greig was assigned as the art director for painting a cultural Afghanistan mural in the conference room of TF MED along with the other artists.
“I don’t want this to come off as a one-man show by any means,” said Sergeant Greig, who’s deployed from the 1st Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla. “This project was a complete team effort of 39 artists.”
“I thought this was going to be a quick paint job, but it turned into part of the GWOT mission because of the Taliban’s ban against art,” said Master Sgt. Cruz Torres Jr., who is deployed from the 710th Medical Squadron Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. “I learned how beautiful Afghan culture really is and I tried to capture it.”
After a series of panoramic photos were taken and stitched together, Sergeant Greig and his crew began working. They completed etching the mountain panorama — true in both direction and size — in a single day.
Although paint became an obstacle because of its limited supply in Afghanistan, that didn’t prevent the group from accomplishing this feat. The task force’s morale committee donated $220 to purchase artist-quality paint shipped from the states. Other donors added $200 in paint and supplies.
According to Sergeant Greig, who’s taken formal art training since the age of 10, the 864-square foot mural is appraised at $178,000, based on industry cost standard of $200 per square foot.
Nearly 290 man-hours later, the entire conference room wall space is vibrant in color and culture while all 39 artists’ dream was realized. Their satisfaction comes from the feedback they get from the local Afghan nationals.
“I enjoyed it,” said Staff Sgt. Jessica Newcomb, a medical technician deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. “From what I’ve seen, all the locals who come in to see the work enjoy it and that’s a good feeling. It is so nice...I really wish my parents could see it.”
“When the locals come in here, they are speechless” added Sergeant Greig. “I hope this art continues to bring peace and prosperity even when the military is gone. I believe this painting is absolutely significant to the Global War on Terror. Culturally, it’s that important.”
Master Sgt. Demetrius Lester is with 455 Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs.