Army Capt. Terrance McIntosh, civil affairs officer from HHT, 1st Sqdrn, 172nd Cav Regt, distributes much needed supplies to the villages of Bashikal during a humanitarian aid mission, Aug 25. The village was recently affected by damaging floods, and with the locals observing the holy month of Ramazan, the aid, which included bags of rice and cooking oil, provided a huge boost in morale for the villagers.
"Distributing humanitarian aid to this village is also helping the relations with the local villagers and CF," said McIntosh. The Malik, or village elder, of Bashikal was particularly impressed with the actions of the CF during this difficult time. “I would like to thank the CF for coming to our aid during this difficult time,” said the Malik. “It's great to see the Soldiers come to help us from down the road. All the children know that help is coming when they see the trucks.”“In a long line of efforts of the CF being here. It’s important that we do whatever we can to help out if we see our neighbors in need,” said McIntosh.
The ISAF started a program that recruited young men to serve as “guardians” for their villages, after participating in a 3-week training program. The guardians would secure key community sites, roads, bridges and buildings. They carry AK-47 rifles for protection; however, they do not have arrest authority. They operate out of checkpoints throughout Wardak prov.“Recruiting slowed for a short time before Haji Mohammad volunteered to serve as the program cmdr. He influenced many more recruits to join the program in winter and spring 2010, filling the program to almost 1,200 guardians,” said Army Lt. Col. Matthew McFarlane, the 1-503rd Bn cmdr of the 173rd Abn BCT. “The program helped recruit fence sitters and former low-level insurgents to support GoA. Recently, the program has lost some guardians due to some logistics and pay issues. TF Bayonet continues to work to improve deficiencies identified as the pilot program grew, and is trying to promote the idea of an improved mgt structure for the org., a pay increase for the guardians, and some improved weapons to provide a better defense,” he added. “The guardians have made tremendous sacrifices, and are doing their part for the people of Afghanistan,” said Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Bagby, the command sgt. major for the 1-503rd. “This program has brought better security to the doorsteps of the people who they protect, and although there have been setbacks, they continue to work to ensure continued progress in the areas they patrol.” “AP3 members are locating and clearing IEDs independently of U.S. assistance in an effort to control their own areas,” added Army Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Woods, TF King command sgt. major. “We're confident that the security improvements that our Afghan partners are making in Wardak will result in lasting improvements for the citizens in the prov.,” said Woods."Recently, Afghanistan exported agricultural products for the first time in almost 30 years, an accomplishment partially credited to the increased security provided by AP3 and other Afghan orgs.," Woods said. “Compare the turning point in Iraq with the turning point in Afghanistan. The Afghan AP3 is very similar to the Sons of Iraq in that it represents a rise in local control,” he added.
Afghan officials, including ANP chiefs and National Directorate of Security (NDS) chiefs from the 4 prov., shared ideas with the govs., and what they needed to accomplish. Overall, security for the elections was the biggest deal, and improving ANSF conditions was a hot topic.
“In Khogyani district, the ANP have no police station,” said the chief of police from Wardak Prov. “They're operating out of an old house.”
The NDS chief of Paktika, a prov. that borders Pakistan, said more insurgents were coming to the prov. “I want to prevent the insurgent’s movement by using checkpoints,” Paktika’s NDS chief told the crowd. “Paktika and Ghazni need to work together on this.”
The Paktika NDS chief also shared with the group that working with local leaders has been a great success, because it has encouraged the local people in the prov., to work with the govt.
Another topic that arose among the officials was reintegration of former Taliban members into Afghanistan. Moheebullah Samim, the Paktika gov., strongly defended the GoA’s reconciliation and reintegration policy. Samim summed up the insurgents’ refusal to come to the peace table as “un-Islamic.” Both Wardak and Ghazni govs. agreed that reconciliation efforts should be the topic of discussion in the next regional gov’s conference scheduled for Oct.
In addition to sharing ideas, Army 1st Lt. Michael Campbell, the liaison officer from TF Iron, introduced himself and his group to Afghan officials. He explained to them that TF Iron, a U.S. military group, will move into eastern Ghazni Prov., and work under the Polish-run TF White Eagle, in response to the troop surge in Afghanistan.
“We'll be arriving in Ghazni in Sept.,” Campbell told the govs. and their staff. “We’ve been in western Paktika, and we achieved great success in security and development and governance there. Recently we focused our efforts on building a platform for a successful election, and as we move over here to eastern Ghazni, we hope to accomplish the same thing.”
TF Iron’s priorities include securing the populace with combined ANSF action; disrupting, neutralizing and destroying the enemy; and assisting the govs., sub-govs., and line directors in providing service to the people and supporting development.
“The people of eastern Ghazni can expect that TF Iron will respect Islam, serve with honor, and continue to respect the culture of their nation,” Campbell said.
NANGARHAR - With tears forming in her eyes and voice shaking, Army Staff Sgt. Nicole Olcott stood before a crowd of homeless Afghan children, Aug. 14, prepared to fulfill a 7-month endeavor.Before deploying to Afghanistan, Olcott, a flight mission planner with HHT, 3rd Sqdrn, 17th Cav Regt, TF Lighthorse, made a commitment to her children. “I made my children a promise,” said Olcott. “I made it before I went to Iraq as well, that I would do something for the children in that country. I didn’t know how, but I was determined to do it.” Olcott learned of the dire need for school supplies while handing out Beanie Babies to Afghan children on FOB Fenty, during Christmas 2009. “These children really wanted to learn,” said Olcott. “They especially wanted to learn English. So I started e-mailing friends and family back home telling them I could use some school supplies.” Friends and family responded immediately by sending various types of school supplies. In addition, the 3rd ID’s Adopt-A-Soldier program coordinator offered to send additional items to Olcott. Through a reporter named Michael Jordan, who was filming a documentary on 3rd ID, Olcott was able to secure 2 large green tough boxes full of supplies from the Matthew Freeman Foundation, named for Marine Capt. Mathew Freeman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009. He also shared a passion to provide school supplies to the children of Afghanistan. With items now coming in from the Mathew Freeman Foundation, the Adopt-A-Soldier program, and Olcot’s own nonprofit org., Op New Start, Olcott soon had a large container full of clothing, toys, formula, bottles, toiletries, toothbrushes, shoes, coloring books and more. Eventually, a civil affairs co. was assigned to locate an appropriate village in which Olcott could personally distribute her donated items. Army Capt. Glenn Battshinger, a civil affairs ops center leader with the 404th CAB, Nangarhar PRT, knew just the villagers that could use the supplies. “A pencil gives a child hope,” said Battschinger. “A notebook gives them the ability to keep a written record of their hope. Education is the only way Afghanistan will get out of its hole.” Barely a month ago, these villagers lost their homes during regional flash flooding, and now were living in an internally displaced persons camp in Nangarhar. As Olcott prepared to hand out the supplies, she became visibly overwhelmed by the moment. “I broke down,” said Olcott. “Wow, I’m really here. These kids really do need help. They're the future of Afghanistan.” Back at FOB Fenty, Olcott has also done whatever she can to help children and the adults alike. After working her 10-hour overnight shift, she can often be found at the local bread store donating food supplies, which led to the introduction of pizza by the bread maker.
She has also donated baby supplies to local hospitals, and toiletries to Afghan Soldiers stationed on FOB Fenty. “This experience in Afghanistan has been one of the most memorable in my career and my life,” said Olcott. “Just being able to save someone is probably the most amazing feeling.”
Coalition Leadership Celebrate Iftar Together
Photos by Spc. Brandon Bolick
BAGHDAD—On a blistering hot Iraq day, most soldiers would find some excuse to remain indoors, citing the risk of heat exhaustion. But, for 2 softball teams, the heat of the desert couldn’t compare to the rivalry between them, and the love of the game.“Winning is great, but whether you win or lose you take something out of it,” said Spc. Clint Glass, from the Bombers. It was a bittersweet contest, as this softball game was the last these teams will play on COB Falcon. USD - Center is scheduled to turn the base over to ISF in Oct., marking another milestone in building a more secure, stable and sovereign Iraq. “We're sad this is the last game of the year here on Falcon,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Simmons, with Team Falcon. “We appreciate the guys that did come out and support us: most of the fans have been here all year. We’ve had 5 tournaments this year, and it’s been a good season.” “Sports give you a chance to relax and have fun, and not really stress about the job,” Glass said, “You just kind of feel like you’re back home for a little bit. Even though this was the last tournament, we can still pull together, and come out here to support MWR.”“The game went well,” Simmons said, “We came up a little short; our teams have been battling all year, and it finally came out to the last game of the season, and they took it.” Both teams had big hits in the 6th, and by the end of the inning, the Bombers held just an 18-17 lead. Then, at the top of the 7th, the Bombers scored 5 more runs. The good-natured jabs ran thick across the dusty field; comments could be heard about players having holes in their gloves, or whether their ill-fated swing was because of dust in their eyes. “There’s really no difference in the teams or the camaraderie out here and in garrison; however, they have grass (back home),” Glass said.
Members of the Bombers, pose for a photo with their trophy.
BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces arrested seven suspected Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) criminal associates during separate joint security operations today near Taji.ISF and U.S. advisors searched several buildings for a suspected AQI financier, who is allegedly responsible for emplacing IEDs targeting ISF and CF, during separate joint security ops., Aug. 27, near Taji. Info and evidence gathered at the scene led Iraqi forces to identify and arrest 6 suspected AQI criminal assocs.
During another op, ISF and U.S. advisors searched several buildings for a suspected AQI leader allegedly involved in the construction and facilitation of VBIEDs. Info and evidence gathered at the scene led Iraqi forces to identify and arrest a suspected AQI criminal assoc.