Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Andrew Miller
Nawa District Gov. Manaf speaks with a caller during a live radio show, Oct. 29. Manaf highlighted plans for Nawa's future, emphasizing his enduring objectives of peace, poppy eradication, education and security. He uses radio programs to reach those who are unable to attend the shuras he hosts throughout the district. His days end late in the evenings and begin well before sunrise. While most in Nawa are still sleeping soundly in their beds, he's already awake preparing for another seemingly endless day.
Manaf has each day planned out, filling the daylight hours with a flurry of activity, and handling his administrative duties at night. One of his preferred methods of engagement is to bring his message directly to the people, face to face. Almost every other day he's traveling throughout his district conducting shura after shura.At one of his most recent gatherings at PB Loy Kolay, Manaf highlighted plans for Nawa’s future, emphasizing his enduring objectives of “PPES” – peace, poppy eradication, education and security. During the shura the gov. spoke of the dangers of poppy, urging those in attendance not to grow the controversial plant, because the people are getting sick. He spoke about education becoming more readily available for all the people of Nawa, including his dream of making it available to both men and women. As is the case at nearly every shura he holds, Manaf discussed the Afghan Local Police (ALP). He encouraged local residents to register with the ALP, to take responsibility for the security of their own villages. He ended his remarks with words of peace, “even for people who are rebels and are against governance, they can come and have peace here among themselves.” Manaf’s efforts are genuine. He knows his people need to hear what their gov. has planned for their district. “District Gov. (DG) Manaf will come to the RIAB (Radio in a Box) station for his weekly call-in show, in order to broadcast any messages he wants to be heard by the people of Nawa. The 4 topics he usually addresses are poppy eradication, reintegration for insurgents into society, increases in educational programs, such as student/teacher attendance rates, and increasing recruitment for the ALP,” said Spc. Michael Mansour, Psychological Ops Specialist with the 350th PsyOps Co. “After he broadcasts his message, the DG usually fields an array of callers. These callers cover those within and beyond the borders of Nawa’s district lines.”Mansour said the calls range from praises for the hard work of the gov., to asking him questions and seeking advice, or assistance with personal situations. “Other callers may request interpretations or descriptions of laws, or even to wage complaints or grievances they have towards govt/ANSF officials or actions,” said Mansour, a native of Ohio. “In an environment with low literacy rates, limited print capabilities, limited TV, and limited internet usage, a radio broadcast acts as the strongest method to spread info.Manaf feels that the radio broadcast program is one of his most beneficial tools in his toolkit. “I'm so happy about this program,” he said. “This is another way for the people to contact me, so I can help solve their issues or problems, and if I can't solve the problem myself, then I relay it to the correct depts which are responsible.”But even this method won’t reach 100% of the population. Manaf understands this and presses forward with his mission, projecting messages over loudspeakers at the local mosques, and hanging inspirational literature and posters around the villages and towns. He remains persistent in his goal to help his entire community. One reason Manaf believes he has been successful in establishing change in Nawa, is because he tries to project himself as a good example for others. He practices what he preaches. Even with his busy schedule, the gov. makes time for furthering his education, a habit he hopes others will imitate. “Every morning from 6 to 8 I have a computer class, and I'm now trying to establish a steady English class,” he explained. “Whenever I have an interview with the people at shuras or on the radio, I tell them that until I'm too old, I'll continue to get further education, but for them it's still not too late.”
“I'm so happy about my job and my position,” he said. “I could talk about this all day and never finish. I want to bring peace and security for the entire district of Nawa, so that people will come from around the world to see Nawa. One day, Nawa will be a beautiful place that people will want to come and see.”
Deployment Gives Virginia Native New Perspective
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province – LCpl. Jackson is working toward a promising future, thanks to the lessons his mother tried to teach him as a child, and his experiences in the Marine Corps. Jackson grew up in a single-parent home with a mother who would not tolerate negative influences in his life.“When I was 16 or 17, my mom put me in this military program for at-risk youth,” said Jackson. “It's basically like a 5-month ‘boot camp.’ I really liked the discipline the instructors had. I was a big fan of the uniforms and the whole military persona. I took a lot from the experience.” The program, called the Commonwealth Challenge, was created to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth, by providing the values, skills, education, and self-discipline needed to produce responsible, productive citizens, and to do so in a highly disciplined atmosphere, according to the program’s website.Jackson knew after his time in the Commonwealth Challenge and JROTC that he was going to join the military. “I’m all about challenges,” said Jackson. “Out of all the other branches, I felt the Marine Corps would be the most challenging, so I thought it would be the best for me.”Jackson worked at the Installation Personnel Administration Center (IPAC) on Camp Lejeune, N.C. For Jackson, the same day-in-day-out routine was very repetitive, and he wanted a new challenge. He saw an opportunity to mix up his day-to-day routine and jumped on it, volunteering to deploy with 2nd Marine Div (Fwd) for a 12–month tour to Afghanistan.Jackson's main responsibilities include ensuring the tracking and accountability of all personnel in 2nd Marine Div (Fwd), which heads TF Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (SW). “LCpl. Jackson is crucial to ensuring the 10,000 plus personnel of TF Leatherneck are properly accounted for on a daily basis,” said Sgt. Adriana Soliz Ponce, NCO-in-charge of the ops and manpower section. “He has personally produced more than 60 personnel reports that were submitted for presentation to the chief of staff and comm. gen.”Soliz Ponce, a Mass. native, added, "the reports Jackson produces provide all other sections with critical info needed to accomplish daily tasks, by being able to easily locate any Marine within the division for personnel casualty reports, Red Cross messages, emergency leave, and combat and administrative replacements.“Compared to what I was doing in Camp Lejeune, I like my job a lot. It’s different; I’m always up for new things,” said Jackson. “Too much of one thing is never a good thing. I’m always up for learning something new. I learn something new every day.”He said that he plans to take back his experiences he has had in Afghanistan, when he goes back to the IPAC, and teach others all that he has learned. “Being over here and seeing a different way of viewing things, meeting different people; it has really opened my eyes to different things, and I think it's going to carry over,” said Jackson. Jackson added that he's going to try to motivate others who may feel like they are in a rut as he once felt. He reverts back to a lesson his mother taught him as a young man. “It's not as bad as you think it is; everything is what you make it,” said Jackson.Jackson, who was formerly planning to get out of the Marine Corps, now plans to re-enlist and has submitted a package for the Marine Security Guard (MSG) program, in which he could be selected to guard U.S. embassies around the world, now that his deployment is nearing an end. Jackson said the reason he wants join the MSG program, is so he can see another side of the Marine Corps, and take advantage of the opportunity to travel and live in foreign countries.“He has matured a lot, and because he constantly seeks self improvement, his work ethic, attention to detail, and proficiency surpasses that of his peers,” said Soliz Ponce. “Since day one, he has always put forth his best effort, given 100% of himself in every assigned task, and it has reflected in his work.”The maturity Jackson has gained on his deployment has him looking back on all those things his mother said to him growing up. He now understands the wisdom she was trying to pass on to him throughout his life. “I take a lot from her, and I thank her for everything she did. My mom used to always tell me whatever I do in life, make sure I'm happy about what I’m doing,” said Jackson. “If it wasn’t for all the things she did, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and I'm happy with who I am.”
LCpl. Leepoleon Jackson checks some paperwork for accuracy. Jackson said that this deployment has changed his outlook and renewed his enthusiasm about the Marine Corps, and life in general.
Local Police Hero Stands Tall -- With One Leg
Story by Capt. Jonathan Simmons, PRT Kapisa
KAPISA PROVINCE – What would it take to make you stop fighting robbers, murderers and kidnappers in your hometown? Well, for one ALP chief in a small village in Afghanistan’s smallest prov., even 9 bullet wounds, and the loss of a leg was not enough to make him quit. Qand Agha, 28, chief of the the ALP unit for the Landakhel village, continues to defend his village against Taliban domination, even after the loss of his left leg in a combat op partnered with CF near his village, last Dec.Agha described, with passion and tears, the fierce battle where he lost his leg. “We were scouting an area to establish a checkpoint, when we were attacked by the Taliban,” Agha said. “I lost 2 guys, but made it to the checkpoint location with CF.” He described the combat movement, and said that he climbed into a “stronghold” on the mountain’s lap with CF. Then it happened …
“I heard a blast,” Agha recounted. “After the blast my left arm was broken and my leg was about a meter away from my body. When I heard the blast I thought I was dead.” Agha retold the events in explicit detail, as if they had happened yesterday, describing the condition of other casualties, and the complex medical evacuation effort that ensued. As the smoke was clearing, their laid Agha, 2 of his men, and at least 1 coalition casualty.“Some of the soldiers thought we were dead and they left,” said Agha. “But a brave special forces guy put his mouth on my mouth, and put on a tourniquet. He didn't leave me.” Pressed but not crushed, Agha had not seen his last battle on this infamous day. After 2-1/2 months in a medical facility on Bagram Air Base, the young leader returned to the village where he was born, and continued to lead the fight against Taliban oppression.Before he became the leader of the Landakhel ALP, Agha was a motorcycle mechanic in a bazaar near his village. He decided to stand against the Taliban, after they killed his cousin, and after a long and harsh regimen of oppression in his village. “The Taliban had much influence in my village,” Agha remembered from his pre-ALP days. “They were harming kids and families. They were using houses as strongholds, and anyone who would stand against them would be killed, … so I decided to participate with the govt and go against them. This is why I decided to pick up a gun against them.”The local Taliban didn’t welcome this 1st ALP unit in the prov. (at the time called Road Maintenance Team) with open arms. They attacked this new force mercilessly. When traditional attacks failed, the Taliban resorted to kidnapping ALP family members and info warfare, but Agha and his band of Landakhel brothers were not dissuaded from defending their homes and neighbors.According to sources in the area last year, the local populace has “embraced the concept of a village without insurgents.” Agha’s men call him “our brother.” They know his voice, and they follow him. They described their team with the Pashto phrase “Sar-Tom-Bah,” which is commonly used to mean stubborn. “We're using this name, because in a fire fight we're afraid of no one, and we're never backing down,” Agha said with pride. This term may just be appropriate for this police force, considering that the Landakhel village is located in the highly contested key terrain district of Tagab in Southern Kapisa. The ALP there continues to repel Taliban attacks, and help to keep the nearby portion of the prov’s only north-to-south corridor relatively safe and open for business. When asked why he continues to fight the Taliban after all he’s been through, Agha replied simply “I have to fight to survive.”
Staff Sgt. Joe Salinas, an ops watch chief with 3/3, said the Marines and sailors will have a challenging task in Garmsir. They’ll partner with the ANSF to maintain the progress made by 1/3, to secure the district and legitimize its govt in the eyes of the people. “Our deployment to Garmsir is as important as the 1st, because we could be the last Marines here,” said Salinas, a 40-year-old native of Texas. “We have a lot to accomplish to make sure the Afghans are ready to take over when we leave.Partnering with the ANA and Police, “America’s Battalion” will assist the local Afghan leadership in providing security for reconstruction projects, aimed at developing critical infrastructure in the district. Lt. Col. Matthew Palma, 3/3 comm. officer, sees these development projects as essential to the Afghan govt taking root in southern Helmand. “We’ve invested 10 years in this war,” said Palma, a native of R.I. “We’re on the verge of success, and turning back now would only throw away the work we’ve done, and the sacrifices of the Marines that have gone before us. The Afghans are emerging from 30 years of sustained conflict. They see the light at the end of the tunnel, and they want change, too.”The deployment is new territory for many of the Marines and sailors of 3/3, including Seaman Dave Mundy, a corpsman with Kilo Co. While a professional milestone, it will also be Mundy’s 1st deployment apart from his wife of 7 months. He said the separation will be difficult, especially following his wife’s recent move to Hawaii. “I brought my wife away from her family for the 1st time,” said Mundy, a native of Ill. “Now we’re going to miss spending all the holidays together.”In Afghanistan, the corpsman will shoulder a lot of responsibility. At 27, he has more life experience than nearly all his peers, and his maturity will be an asset in the performance of his duties. He’s charged with caring for 18 Marines, infantrymen faced with the threats of enemy fighters and IEDs.Though confident in his abilities as a corpsman, Mundy said that he hopes he never has to use his training in combat.
“Even if I don’t have to use my training, I’m doing a job that matters ... and my wife knows I am, too,” Mundy said. “Being away from her is going to be really hard, but it makes me feel better knowing I’ll be there when my guys need me.”"The Marines and sailors of 3/3 will labor in Afghanistan for 7 months, but the impact of their efforts will forever be a part of Afghan and Marine Corps history," Palma said. “This generation of Marines is re-writing America’s history books,” Palma said. “Twenty years from now, our kids will read about our endeavors, much like we did of our fathers in Vietnam, and our grandfathers in World War II.”
LCpl. Ryan Kelly, a rifleman with Jump Plt, waits to have his weapon cleared out after calibrating it during a battle sight zero exercise, Nov. 3. Kelly, 21, is from Mass.
Cpl. Sebastian Chenault, an anti-tank missileman, and Pvt. Beau Babcock, a mortarman with Jump Plt, use bamboo sticks called “sickle sticks” to locate the wires of mock IEDs, during counter-IED training, Nov. 3. Chenault, 27, is from Ill, and Babcock, 20, is from Texas.
BADAKSHAN PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor conducted an op in search of a Haqqani facilitator in Argo district, yesterday. The facilitator coordinates suicide attacks with other insurgent leaders in the area.
During the op, a local national male failed to comply with repeated verbal warnings, and displayed hostile intent toward the SecFor, resulting in his death. The SecFor confiscated a shotgun and intel linking the local national to the Haqqani network. Two suspected insurgents were detained during the op.
----- In Lajah - Ahmad Khel district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader. The leader coordinates direct and indirect fire attacks against Afghan and CF in the area. Also, the leader provides weapons, ammo, IEDs and IED material to insurgents in the region.WARDAK PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained a Taliban leader and multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in Nerkh district. The leader directed attacks against Afghan and CF in the Nerkh and Maidan Shahr districts, as well as coordinating weapons and financial support for insurgents in the area. The SecFor seized an RPG launcher with multiple RPGs, 5 AK-47 assault rifles, several ammo pouches, fragmentation grenades, and bomb making materials.KHOST PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained a Haqqani network facilitator and 2 suspected insurgents, during an op in Khost district. The facilitator planned and conducted attacks against Afghan and CF, as well as conducted kidnappings in the district. An AK-47 assault rifle and ammo pouch were seized.
New Radar Paints Iraq's Air Defense Picture
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA – As U.S. forces redeploy from Iraq, areas of responsibility are being transferred to the Iraqi SecFor. COB Adder will become Imam Ali Air Base, an IqAF installation dedicated to securing the skies over the southern provs.The IqAF wing taking command of the installation will have a new tool to make that mission possible: a state-of-the-art radar facility. The $55 million facility was constructed by a joint effort of contractors with Lockheed Martin and the USACE, and sold by the U.S. to Iraq in a foreign military sales case.“The objective of the system is to provide them a single point location where they can monitor the entire airspace over their country,” said Scott Hosking, technical director with Lockheed Martin. “This system will integrate the air traffic control radars that are scattered throughout the country, as well as the long range radars we're putting in as a part of this effort.”"The project started in late 2009, and is the culmination of efforts by U.S. forces, civilian contractors, and the IqAF," said Hosking, who trained IqAF personnel on the use of radar technology. "The project entered its final stage this Sept., when Iraqis began their training to operate the system," he added.“Now that the radar is up and running, they're able to use the computers to do their aerodefense mission,” said Tech. Sgt. Denise Wright, “Because of the communications capability that is set up, Baghdad is also able to receive transmissions of what they're seeing here.”“They'll have their own network, as we're familiar with the terminology of Defense Switch Network (DSN), they have the IDN, Iraqi Defense Network,” said Wright. "The Iraqis needed training and preparation to take on the task of using the radar and the defense network," said Wright. “Since early Sept., we've been conducting training on this system to the Iraqis,” said Hosking. “A little bit more hands on, and a little bit more one-on-one type interaction has brought them a long ways, and I think they'll be very proficient, and should be able to step right into the role.”"Participation of U.S. service members made the project possible," said Hosking. “They’ve been providing an awful lot of support logistically, and getting through the hurdles of operating on a coalition base like this,” he said. “They've opened the doors we needed opened.”“The language barrier; that was our biggest hurdle,” said Master Sgt. Marcus Williams, ITAM supply advisor. "With help from interpreters and English-speaking IqAF officers, the joint force was able to handle that challenge," said Williams, who interacted with the Iraqis on a daily basis, and acted as the liaison for civilian contractors and U.S. troops.“At the beginning it was rough, but we were able to overcome the difficulties, and once all their training is completed, there's no doubt in my mind that they can take over the sector ops center, and do an effective job,” said Williams.