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Archive for the ‘ANA’ Category

25 Aug 07
By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs
.

HERO CAMP, Afghanistan – Airmen and soldiers are blending medical supply logistics with a dose of Afghan National Army partnership in a dusty warehouse at ANA’s Hero Camp near Kandahar Airfield.

It’s a prescription for successful mentoring as the Afghans prepare for a new hospital opening here, said Capt. Jay Snodgrass, a medical logistics officer and ANA mentor deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The American servicemembers are helping install medical equipment into a new $6.5 million, 50-bed hospital at Hero Camp. “We’re simply here to help them improve the processes they already have in place, to share with them the lessons we’ve learned about hospital administration and logistics,” Snodgrass said.

The airmen and soldiers helping transfer equipment are medical logistics, administrators and equipment technician members for their respective services assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, which is headquartered in Kabul, Afghanistan. While in Kandahar, the servicemembers work side-by-side with their Afghan counterparts, who are responsible for supplying and equipping the Hero Camp hospital, as well as other ANA clinics and brigade support throughout the region.

Mentoring doesn’t always come easy, said Tech. Sgt. Curtis Miller, a medical logistics technician from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. While Miller’s focus is to teach Afghans how to maintain hospital equipment, he and other embedded transition team members use every available opportunity to give advice where needed. “There is a learning curve,” Miller said. “A lot of the things we take for granted in the United States, such as changing gloves for each patient, are things Afghans typically don’t consider in a hospital. We try to spend time educating them on the benefits of sanitation and ways to prevent infection.”

Miller said when he first began as a mentor, he was a little unsure how a young, American noncommissioned officer would come across to an Afghan military man who has served longer than the sergeant has been alive. It was unnerving to say the least. “There is an Afghan colonel we work with who was put in prison during the Russian occupation two decades ago,” Miller said. “He was given execution orders and was two days away from being put to death when the Russians pulled out of Afghanistan — two days away from being killed. Now, he has those orders on display in his office. You see this and you think, man, these guys have been through a lot.”

Nevertheless, the Afghan officials are eager to learn and work with their American mentors.

“My mentor, Captain Snodgrass, and I are very close,” said Afghan Maj. Abdul Ghafar, the 205th Hero Corps warehouse commander. “The Americans work fairly with each other and with us. We interact as equals.”

The relationship between the Americans and Afghans is a result of respect and tolerance from both sides, Snodgrass said. “Major Ghabar has 27 years military experience,” he said. “He knows a lot about leading troops and warfare. What he doesn’t have full knowledge of is how to manage a warehouse of this magnitude, to take care of the logistics of supplying a hospital and an entire region with 30,000 troops. So, that’s why I’m here, to help him become familiar with the various processes.” Snodgrass pointed out that the Americans are not there to impose their way of life on the Afghan people. Instead, they are learning from each other.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about our different cultures,” he said. “They wanted to know about some of the Christian holidays I celebrate. It’s not a big deal to them that I practice a different religion than they do.”

At the same time, Snodgrass and his team of Americans try to accommodate the Islamic traditions of the Afghans into their work. “We try to work around their prayer schedule,” he said. “Sometimes, we have to keep working through the prayer times, but then we step away and give them their space to lay out their prayer rugs and do what they need to do. We try to be aware of their holidays, too. For example, I won’t eat or drink in front of them during Ramadan, when they fast. When it comes down to it, it’s just about respecting each other.”

Snodgrass said he is confident about Ghabar’s leadership, and that the hospital and its warehouse will do well in the future as the Afghans gain experience in stocking and equipping such a vital mission. “What we are doing here is just part of an overall mission to help Afghans stand up a viable, safe, world-class healthcare system,” he said. “The day they can take on these operations themselves without our assistance will be a very good day for all of us.”

Photo – U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Doug Suddueth (bottom left) and Army Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rivas move a load of medical equipment to a truck Aug. 18 in Afghanistan. Suddueth is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. Rivas is deployed from Fort Sam Houston, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi.

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15 Aug 07
Sgt. David E. Roscoe
Task Force Pacemaker
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FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan – U.S. Army engineers in Afghanistan are doing their part to restore security and the country’s economy by building roads, bridges and levees to connect Afghanistan’s people.

Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and mountainous landscape isolates most of the population from the country’s major cities and industrial area. Lack of funding, harsh seasonal weather and flash floods have made it almost impossible to maintain a lasting road system within the country. Only about 35,000 kilometers of roads connect the country’s economic centers. This explains why one of the main goals for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other engineer units is to build and repair an efficient road system in Afghanistan.

However, major concerns arise for soldiers constructing roads in a combat environment. Improvised explosive devices, car bombs and ambushes are a constant threat to soldiers working on roads. “Our company has been attacked by one IED and one (car bomb), found three IEDs, and been ambushed three times while conducting road-construction missions in Afghanistan,” Army Capt. Nicholas O. Melin, commander of Company B, 864th Engineer Combat Battalion, said. “The motivating thing about all this is that our soldiers are not allowing these obstacles to stop them, and they have maintained their good spirits in the face of danger.”

Unpredictable rainfall in Afghanistan also has been a major threat for local homes and crops as local rivers flood. This was the case in Sira Qala, a community outside Forward Operating Base Sharana, where an aging levee suffered major flood damage threatening the village’s economy. Army 1st Lt. Robert Green, Equipment Platoon leader with Headquarters and Support Company, 864th Engineer Combat Battalion, was tasked to repair the levee. “I think it was an important construction mission with an immediate impact on the population,” he said. “While it may not be a permanent solution to the problem, it will at least continue to protect the village for another couple seasons.”

Connecting Afghan civilians to cities with medical facilities also has been a major road construction goal for the battalion, dubbed Task Force Pacemaker for its Afghanistan deployment. In June, the battalion’s Company A completed a 15-kilometer road that connected the village of Khyur Khot to the town of Mest.

“The Alpha Company road-construction mission was very important because it connected the locals in that area to the town of Mest, which has medical facilities,” Army Capt. Mona A. Tanner, TF Pacemaker plans officer, said. “The road also provided coalition forces with freedom of movement between the two areas. The Alpha Company soldiers were consistent, determined and didn’t let delays weaken their spirits.”

Army Lt. Col. Mark J. Deschenes, the TF Pacemaker commander, added: “The primary purpose of Task Force Pacemaker’s road-construction mission is to maximize mobility for coalition forces and the Afghan people. The roads that we are constructing support economic growth and an efficient security presence in the country. Locals are able to travel from point A to point B easier than they were able to in the past.

“They are able to reach medical services and job opportunities with less difficulty,” he added. “The roads also allow for an increased security capability for coalition forces, the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, providing a safer environment for everyone.”

Photo – Army Staff Sgt. Troy L. Bohanon, a member of Company A, 864th Engineer Combat Battalion, surveys the Khyur Khot to Mest road. U.S. Army photo.

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8 Aug 07
By Army Sgt. Brandon Aird
173rd ABCT Public Affairs
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NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Sailing through the clouds Soldiers from the Afghan National Army and Task Force Saber air-assaulted onto landing zone Shetland July 19 during Operation Saray Has.

The LZ was located in a large meadow near the top of a mountain in here. Local Afghans use the area as a grazing pasture for livestock, while Taliban extremists often use it to stage attacks against TF Saber.

The spot the Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, and the Afghan 3rd Kandak, 201st Corps landed on was roughly 10,000 feet above sea level. The air-assault was part of a reconnaissance mission to determine the point of origin for rockets, which were fired at Forward Operating Base Naray that injured several Soldiers a few weeks prior.

“We came up here to confirm or deny enemy-use of the hilltop,” said Army 1st Lt. Chris Richelderfer, HHT executive officer. “Seven Soldiers were injured from that attack,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Pedraza, command sergeant major of TF Saber.

After air-assaulting onto the mountain, a patrol was dispatched to an adjacent mountain to scout out the terrain and possible enemy positions. The rest of the Soldiers secured the area while Army Capt. Nathan Springer, HHT commander, along with the Naray district Sub-Gov. SamShu Rochman spoke with the local populace. “I wanted the local government to have the lead when talking with the locals,” said Springer.

Rochman spoke with civilians from the villages of Badermashal and Cherigal about security in the area. While Rochman and Springer were speaking with villagers, wood smugglers accidentally walked their donkeys carrying stolen wood into the meadow.

“The wood on the donkeys had been stolen from the Naray lumber yard two days before our mission,” said Springer. Rochman was adamant about bringing the wood smugglers to justice. The wood smugglers were brought off the mountain, back to Naray to face prosecution.

Operation Saray Has was more productive than both Springer and Rochman had planned. “It validated the need to conduct future operations in the area to deny [Taliban extremist] that terrain,” said Springer.

Photo – Army Capt. Nathan Springer, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop Commander, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, looks up the mountain July 19 while on patrol during Operation Saray Has. During Operation Saray Has, two rocket positions were found that had been previously used to attack Forward Operating Base Naray. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird.

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31 July 07
By Sgt. Brandon Aird
173rd ABCT Public Affairs
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KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team spent July 22-28 in Dangam district in Kunar province near the Pakistan border. The area is surrounded by lush farms that thrive from a stream flowing through the valley.

The Soldiers are from Red Platoon, Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), and they were in the area to help fortify the position of an Afghan National Police station and also to establish and reinforce observations posts with the Afghan National Army on nearby hilltops.

The OPs help monitor and stop Taliban extremist movement in the area. Red Platoon named the OPs after one Soldier’s mom, another’s daughter, Sandra and Haden respectively and famous TV stars:, Chuck Norris and Mr. T. “We thought of the baddest dudes we knew,” said Army Staff Sgt. David Benoit, a squad leader in Red Platoon. “Naming OPs like we do helps keep morale up.”

Even though the atmosphere in Red Platoon is a little laid back, the Soldiers take their jobs seriously. From OPs Norris and Mr. T, the platoon observed cross-border activity, called for and adjusted indirect fires, and engaged the enemy with direct fire.

“Our mission was to establish a joint security station in the Dangam area with the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army,” said Army 1st Lt. Jesus Rubio, Red Platoon leader. “We’re also out here to get situational awareness of the area and build friendships with the local leaders.”

The district center of Dangam is a sign of progress for the local ANP. The center has a store, mosque, police station and a school for girls and boys. It also has computers and internet capabilities.

Red Platoon has built up the area around the ANP station to better safeguard against attacks from Taliban extremists. The district center fortifications are just a small piece of the mission. The observation posts that Red Platoon maintains also help build cohesion between the Soldiers and the local populace. “We met the new Afghan Border Patrol commander while we were out at Mr. T,” said Benoit. “A local villager walked all the way up the mountain to tell us the whole valley was talking about us. Everyone was very excited we were up here, he told us.”

Another benefit of establishing OPs throughout the valley is the intelligence that was gathered. “We observed the bad guys moving on the mountain,” said Benoit. “We also got names of smugglers. We definitely laid the grounds for long-term relationships with the locals.”

Red Platoon is in the initial phase of helping build up the district center. Future joint operations will continue for the next 14 months that Red Platoon will be in Afghanistan.

Numerous times at OPs and at the district center, the local village elders would invite the Soldiers over to their houses for food and tea. “The Afghans treated us like kings at Mr. Ts,” said Benoit. “It was awesome.”

Photo – Paratroopers from Red Platoon, Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), navigate to Observation Post Chuck Norris July 25 in Dangam, Kunar province. Photo by Sgt. Brandon Aird.

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KABOOM: Countering IED attacks

27 July 07
By Spc. Mathew Leary
4th BCT PAO
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Hearing the explosion just around the corner from his vehicle July 15, Army Sgt. Felix W. Bala knew that some of his fellow Paratroopers had just been hit by an improvised explosive device.

“We were cruising along about to make a turn when all you could hear was the explosion,” Bala said.

Commanding his driver to quickly take the next turn so they could help their presumably injured comrades, Bala’s truck executed a sharp left turn and pulled up near the damaged HMMWV. By this point, the other vehicles in his platoon had formed a wide perimeter around the blast area. As their truck rolled to a stop, the Soldiers were relieved as they looked back at the truck in question, Bala said.

“By that time, the guys in the truck were getting out of the vehicle under their own power,” he said. While this IED attack involved Bala and Paratroopers of 1st Platoon, Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, it is a reminder that for all U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan, the fight against IEDs is critical.

“The way to cut down on IEDs is to build the relationship between local citizens, the Afghan National Security Force and the [Islamic Republic of Afghanistan],” said Army 1st Lt. Briton M. Crouch, 1st Plt. leader for Troop A, 4-73rd Cav. For this reason, the Paratroopers of the 4-73rd Cav. are headed back to the town of Hassan in Gelan district, the village where an IED went off under one of the trucks, the day after the attack.

IED-DAY Minus 1.

Leaders from the 4-73rd Cav. are determined to pursue all leads relevant to the IED attack on Troop A just the day prior to July 16. The return trip to the village is designed to achieve one simple goal–stop further IED attacks. “We are doing a follow-up in the area to garner more support,” said Army Capt. George E. Bolton Jr., commander of Troop A. “You have to work with the people so they will prevent [IED attacks] from happening.”

As troopers from the 4-73rd Cav. arrive in town, a handful of local villagers begin to fill the streets to see what is going on. After a few minutes, more and more locals enter and begin approaching and talking to the Soldiers, although often neither party can understand the other due to the language barrier. Although not all the conversations can be translated, fortunately there are interpreters with Troop A to facilitate some communication, the fact any talking is taking place is a good sign, Bolton said.

“They showed up and that’s the first step,” he said. A group of village elders, who are the authoritative figure for Hassan, gather together with ISAF to hold an impromptu shura, a sort of town meeting in Afghanistan.

Speaking with Bolton and Army Lt. Col. David J. Woods, commander of the 4-73rd Cav., the locals speak their minds about the conditions in their town. They address the security situation and lack of ANSF forces in the area.

One of the problems facing the developing ANSF in the past is they have not had the capabilities to visit all of the villages in their area. However, as they grow and mature, they are slowly extending their hold over areas of Afghanistan that have been void of any law enforcement for several months, Woods said.

“They told me the Taliban comes in at night driving through the village to harass and intimidate the people,” Crouch said.

IED-DAY Minus 2.

The Paratroopers are preparing to head back to Hassan to again engage the local populace, but this time with the aid of ANSF and District Commissioner Mubaballah, who is the head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Gelan.

“This is where we assist the ANSF in their mission,” Bolton said. Mubaballah and ANSF soldiers independently wanted to visit the town, but with their police and military forces spread out on other missions they lacked the resources to travel there. So they teamed up with ISAF to make the trip.

“That’s part of our role here, to allow the establishment of their government in their own country,” Woods said. “That’s our job, that’s our purpose.”

ISAF support ANSF by providing the police force the extra manpower to cover most of the district and provides training to the ANP and ANA, showing them standard military techniques and strategies, Woods said. Really, this is the best way to curb IED attacks that injure not only military forces but Afghan civilians as well. Developing a congenial relationship between the people, IRoA and ISAF are the key, Woods said.

At this shura, ISAF personnel take a back seat as the district commissioner engages the village elders, again encouraging them to work with ANSF and government officials. “When a police chief or government official comes down to see them, it makes the people feel like they are loved and cared for,” Bolton said. The results are evident as the townspeople speak freely about their need for new roads and schools, as well as the threat of Taliban insurgents who plant IEDs on their roadways.

“The whole thing is for us to separate the Taliban from the people,” Bolton said. “These people are afraid of the insurgency and unsure of their government,” Woods said. “But that’s why we are here, to help them establish those relationships, and show them that the ANSF and [IRoA] are going to give them that sense of security.”

“By providing that link between the people and their government, while simultaneously distancing the insurgency from the people is exactly the way to slow down the emplacement of IEDs in these remote towns and villages,” Woods said.

It is evident some form of bonding is taking place as children run up to Soldiers tugging on their sleeves playfully and the villagers and troopers exchange waves and smiles.

Perhaps that will prevent more Soldiers from cruising along and suddenly hearing that sound no Soldier wants to hear:

KABOOM!

Photo – Communicating through means other than talking, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Parrish, mortar platoon sergeant for Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, demonstrates the art of “high-fiving” to a group of Afghan kids July 16 while visiting Hassan village in the Gelan District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Matthew Leary.

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The Aghanistan National Army (ANA) are busy training and working towards the day when they may be able to defend Afghanistan on their own. It seems to be going well. The 205th Regional Security Assistance Command are quite capable and are making sure of this. They are making sure that the ANA has the supplies they need and that the British are teaching them the American ways to run an Army. I like this. If you would like to read the whole story, you will find it here. Have a great day, and to those of you who are serving, “THANK YOU, and God bless you!”

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