COP Dand Patan MWR Center Boost Morale for Okla. N.G.
PAKTYA PROVINCE – There aren’t many amenities on remote COP Dand Patand, near the Pakistan border, but the soldiers of Co D make the most of their free time in their MWR center. “Having easy and constant access to phones to call friends and family back home is a nice way to take a mental break, and enjoy keeping up with what's going on back home,” said Pvt. Patrick McCrory, an infantryman from N.M.“Being able to log on at anytime and check email, and see pictures of my wife and kids helps me on a daily basis,” said Spc. Joby Daugherty. “Just being able to see what my family is doing, gives me a sense that even though I’m away, I’m not missing my kids grow-up.” Pvt. 1st Class Lauren Boyles, a petroleum supply specialist from Okla., uses the internet in a different way. “It’s awesome that I can order comfort items from Amazon, and receive them in Afghanistan,” said Boyles, “It takes a while to get here, but it’s worth the wait.”When not shopping or staying in touch with their loved ones, many of the TF Creek soldiers use the gym to keep themselves fit to fight. The gym, named in honor of Sgt. Brent Maher, a Fallen Soldier from the Iowa Army N.G., who was killed in action last summer, and served on COP Dand Patan, houses 3 treadmills, 2 elliptical machines, various free weights, weight machines and exercise mats.“Going to the gym helps me remain mission ready and in peak physical shape,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Gray, an infantryman from Tenn. “I also find it a great way to wind down from a stressful day, and it keeps me mentally sharp as well.”Sgt. David Holcomb, an administrative specialist from Okla., has lost over 20-lbs since deploying. “I throw on my body armor, and road march on the treadmill, or crank up the incline and walk up to 5 miles a day,” he said.“The MWR is a great place for soldiers to get together and play video games, watch a movie, or just relax and play cards,” said 1st Sgt. James Boyer, Okla. native, and 1st sgt.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Gray works on his sit-ups at the Sgt. Brent Maher Memorial Gym.
Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Kibler, ISAF PAO
In his down time, Nosaka likes to make life at COP Lion as comfortable as possible for him and his battle buddies. Up bright and early, he spends his time cleaning the Role I aid station he both works and lives in. He can be found cooking hot meals on a makeshift grill — a hole in the ground filled with charcoal — or working on his carpentry skills by building shelves, and a horse shoe pit. He doesn‟t mind getting dirty. "I lived in the woods growing up, so this is all sort of the norm for me," he joked.While it may be too quiet for some, he's looking forward to spending the rest of his deployment away from the busier life normally experienced at larger FOBs and bases. In his line of work, he said, "quiet is a good thing."
Recruits Train to Fight for Peace at KMTC
KABUL – The graduates walked proudly across the stage that morning, not yet knowing where they would work, but certainly knowing for whom. Dressed not in caps and gowns, but berets and their military uniforms, these 1,400 Afghan soldiers had trained long and hard for this day.“There has been a big change. When we first came, we were civilians, so we didn’t know anything. Now, after 8 weeks, we're in the frame of mind of the army,” said ANA Pvt. Mohammad Ghamy. As a civilian, Ghamy had seen the effects of the Taliban on his community. “There were no jobs, and I saw so much fighting going on in my district, so I wanted to come and join the Ministry of Defense – come and serve my country,” Ghamy said. “My family encouraged me to join the military, serve the country, get the enemies out of our country, and help rebuild it.”Where Pvt. Imran Hashmaei lived, the responsibility for security has transitioned largely into the hands of the Afghans. The sight of ANA soldiers in the local media encouraged his decision to serve. “When I saw the ANA training on the TV, I really liked the uniform. I talked to my family and said I wanted to join the military. My family supported me and said I could join,” Hashmaei said.
“When the soldiers come to KMTC, we tell them about their appearance, and the way of living in the army. We tell them how they need to be disciplined and how they need to appear, as long as they're going to be soldiers in the future,” said ANA Lt. Col. Habib Wardak, KMTC’s 4th Basic Training Kandak cmdr.That new way of living only seemed to strengthen their desire to make it through training. “I felt like my fellow countrymen were beside me,” said Ghamy. “They all spoke Dari and Pashtu. I didn’t feel nervous or scared.” Donning the uniform for the first time inspired the soldiers even more. “When I wear my uniform, I don’t feel different, but I have the passion to serve my country,” said Hashmaei.That courage and passion served these soldiers well, as they tackled the challenges of basic training. These challenges are greater than for many of their counterparts around the world, as these soldiers must first learn to read and write.
“The majority of the U.S. soldiers come in the military with a 12-year education, but the Afghan soldiers come in with zero education. By the time they leave basic training, they'll have received up to 60 hours, which will train them to read at a 3rd grade level, so they can read, write and basically understand more than they could when they got here,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jaymon Bell, of Co A, 3rd Bn, 4th Inf Regt. Bell, of Tenn., advises the cmdr. of the 1st Basic Training Kandak at KMTC.This opportunity to read and write was the first for Ghamy. “This is the first time I'm getting literacy training,” Ghamy said. “I was a desert boy, a country boy, and I’d never seen it until I came into the ANA.” He hopes the education he receives in the military will help give him the opportunity to offer the children he'll have one day, a better future. “I didn't have an education, so I joined the service as an enlisted soldier,” he said. “If my children become educated, they'll be doctors or engrs., and be able to serve Afghanistan that way.”Following their initial reading and writing lessons, the soldiers were able to move on to the more tactical side of basic training. With the ISAF service members primarily filling an advisory role, ANA drill instructors, like 1st Sgt. Hamad, conducted their training. “This training is very useful in the field after the recruits become part of the regular army,” Hamad said. “When they graduate, these tactics are useful against the enemy.”“We've learned everything they've taught us completely – the basic fundamentals of marksmanship, assembling and reassembling weapons, the grenade range, a ten-kilometer ruck march, and live shooting with the M16,” Ghamy said.
“The urban training and the live-fire were the most interesting for me,” said Ghamy. "I'll remember them forever.”As for Hashmaei, the novelty of the weapons range has yet to wear off. “Everything I’ve learned here is interesting to me, because I want to be a soldier, but the most interesting part was shooting the M240B automatic rifle and the M249 squad automatic weapon,” Hashmaei said. “When I got here, I hadn't shot a weapon. The first time I got a weapon, I became more encouraged, and I get braver every day.”Upon their graduation, the soldiers were told where they'll serve and employ their new skills. “I'm really proud of them,” said Wardak. “On the first day when they came here, they were villagers who didn’t know how to read, how to write, or how to shoot the weapons. Since they’ve been at basic training, there have been a lot of changes in their lives.”The soldiers also appreciate these changes in themselves. “I'm much different,” said Ghamy. “I've been through 2 months of training, and I've learned a lot. I can use this training to save my life and save my country.” With that salvation, these Afghan soldiers who have trained well to fight the enemy today, hope to see a lasting peace in Afghanistan’s future.“The people are tired of war, and I don’t want war anymore either, so I will serve my country to solve that problem,” Hashmaei said. “There'll be no more fighting in my country, and I'll do my best to make sure of that.”
ANA Pvt. Hashmaei writes a math equation during the literacy portion of basic training.
ANA Pvt. Ghamy (center right), goes eyes right with his fellow soldiers, as they pass by the reviewing stand.
COB ADDER – Each day the number of convoys leaving Iraq is growing as OND nears the end of mission. Oct. has been a busy month, as many of the individual military units on COB Adder are packing up and sending equipment back home. "More and more convoys of vehicles and equipment are being packed up and shipped out in preparation to exit Iraq," said Staff Sgt. Erick Torres, convoy cmdr., 233rd Trans. Co, from Ala.Each truck carrying military vehicles. including High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, MRAP vehicles, and tanks is backed up to a ramp, and the vehicles are carefully loaded onto the flatbeds. “The most challenging part of this job is loading the vehicles,” said Torres. Once the cargo is loaded onto the trucks and the paperwork is complete, the convoy is then lined up at a designated staging area to await departure. The U.S. still has thousands of Soldiers, and an abundance of equipment that need to be shipped home before the year's end. Soldiers and civilian contractors work long hours to make sure equipment is packed properly and ready for transit. "Part of being the convoy cmdr. is identifying vehicles and equipment by serial number, and matching them against the unit rosters before they're shipped," said Torres. "It makes for long days, but it's a necessary part of the process," he said. "Each convoy is assigned a security team to escort the cargo from COB Adder to their final destination," said Torres.
Ready for departure.