By Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr., USMC
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 14, 2008 - The Afghan National Army demonstrated flexibility in accomplishing missions at the behest of the Afghan government, as soldiers provided humanitarian and medical assistance to hundreds of Anchagal villagers in the Naray district here. Embedded training team Marines provided security and mentoring from behind the scenes while soldiers from 3rd Kandak (Armored), 3rd Brigade, 201st ANA Corps, distributed food and clothes. U.S. Navy and Army medical personnel also provided medical care for about 200 villagers.
The humanitarian assistance was the result of the Kunar provincial governor's request to Afghanistan parliamentarians for assistance. Gulhar Jalal, parliamentary representative for Kunar province, and Hugi Gul Zaman, subgovernor of Naray district, both were present for the visit.
Jalal said she had been a part of a recent meeting of elders when she heard insurgents were threatening Afghans and forcing them to leave Nuristan province, pushing them into Kunar province. "When I arrived here and saw the conditions, I saw it was a really bad situation," Jalal said.
Since her arrival to the province, however, she has seen positive responses from Afghans toward their national government and the army, she said.
The Afghan National Army has supported national Afghan officials in other humanitarian assistance visits to additional villages over the last several days. This is the first humanitarian assistance visit this week that included U.S. presence and medical assistance.
It was no accident that the U.S. presence was low-profile. "It's better that the ANA do it their way than us telling them how to do it," said Marine Lt. Col. James F. Werth, Embedded Training Team 7-2 chief.
The Afghan army's coordination and lead in the humanitarian assistance visit was well received. "All the enemies are kept out," Zaman said. "I think it is best. It showed all the people that (the ANA) are with you, all the time. The villagers are really happy. I think, for the people, this is one way to see a show of forces."
Jalal echoed Zaman, saying she also noticed the Afghan soldiers' relationship with the villagers was very positive.
The embedded training team Marines primarily provided perimeter security during the village visit. Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 91st Airborne Cavalry, assisted in perimeter security as well.
The Afghan soldiers are "the front lines, and we were just there to help," said Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Reynaldo S. Datu, a hospital corpsman assigned to ETT 7-2.
Datu assisted the Afghan army doctor and medics, as did Army Capt. Scott Harrington, a family practice doctor, and Spc. Melissa A. Hoffman, an Army medic. Both are from 173rd Airborne Brigade Support Battalion, out of Germany, working from Forward Operating Base Naray.
"I am very much pleased with how it went today," Datu said as the visit wrapped up. "It is pleasing to see the ANA personnel taking care of the people."
(Marine Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr. serves with Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs.)