Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Beyond Orders – Helping to Win the War on Terror by Helping to Win Hearts and Minds

The recently published dialogue between Capt. Dave Gowel and Dougan Sherwood has prompted some interesting discussion and commentary. Dougan asks the question: “What can I - as a civilian - do to make a difference on the War on Terror?” As I ponder the answers to that question, it occurs to me that this is an opportune time to make Dougan – and the other readers of The White Rhino Report – aware of some organizations that are effectively creating opportunities for citizens to become involved in supporting those who are, or have been, on the front lines of the War on Terror. With that in mind, I want to make you aware of an organization founded by several friends of mine – Beyond Orders.

Here is the story of the organization and its genesis:

After his initial brainstorm, Harvard student Tin-Yung Ho spoke with Rajiv Srinivasan, a West Point cadet, and the two decided to launch the project. Soon, Matt Scherrer, a Harvard Business student and 2001 Princeton graduate who had served four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger, and Kate Buzicky, a Harvard Law student and fellow Princeton ROTC graduate, were on board.

The site’s founders believe that Beyond Orders fills a gap; the U.S. can now meet the humanitarian needs of Iraqi communities. Various non-profits and NGOs operate in Iraq, but due to security concerns, keep mainly to its safest areas. Therefore, many of the communities that are most in need of this type of aid go without it. The military itself does what it can, but is already strained with operational concerns, which naturally take priority over distributing sewing machines. By sending items directly to soldiers’ APO (Army Post Office) addresses, Beyond Orders circumvents some of these problems and helps get these items where they are needed, allowing soldiers to help out Iraqi communities and build goodwill between Americans and Iraqis.

More recently, Beyond Orders has set up a method by which civilians can donate money to go towards helping soldiers obtain the items they would like, a feature which may expand the site’s capabilities significantly once it starts bringing in sizeable donations. The concept of Beyond Orders is similar to sites such as Any Soldier, which allows civilians to send items to make U.S. soldiers’ lives more comfortable, but by switching the focus to the local populations the soldiers are serving, allows both the soldier and the civilian to feel a sense of fulfillment at having made a difference in a community in crisis. At this stage, the expansion of this non-profit project depends largely on getting the word out to civilians, many of whom would no doubt like to assist in the soldiers’ efforts, but aren’t sure how. Judging by the requests on the site, quite a few soldiers are eager to, as Beyond Orders puts it “rise above the call of duty for the Iraqi people.” Beyond Orders makes it easier for civilians to get involved and lend a hand.

Regular readers of The White Rhino Report will recognize the name of Rajiv Srinivasan from a recent posting about the making of a West Point cadet.

Making of a West Point Officer

Matt Sherrer became a friend of mine when he served as one of the Co-Presidents of the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School.

Together with their friends and colleagues, Rajiv and Matt have created an organization that addresses a significant need.

I encourage you to visit the Beyond Orders Website, and make a cash donation or ship needed supplies to one of our soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.


Anonymous said...

This is good stuff. As a young person also concerned about the weight this war had put on a certain subsection of our generation and military families, I went to a friend who worked for the senate committee on veteran's affairs.... but got no where. This is far better.

Anonymous said...

You are correct that this is similar to I send care packages to many soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan through their website, and donate to help them keep their excellent organization going. It's a wonderful thing to send items for the local people because it helps them improve their living conditions, dramatically improves relations between our soldiers and the local people, and also helps the soldiers' morale because they can see the positive results and smiles on faces.

To find soldiers (or marines, sailors, airmen, guardsmen) who would like to receive needed items for locals, search for keywords like "school supplies" "clothing" "shoes" "soccer balls" etc. You can read the soldiers' own requests. Some are short on words and others are amazing writers and photographers. All are extremely happy to hear their name at mail call. Any soldiers assigned to train local police and living alongside them will definitely be interested in any items they can pass on to them.