By Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Caldwell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 28, 2008 - The Joint Provincial Coordination Center in Jalalabad is serving as a model in eastern Afghanistan for synchronizing the efforts of the U.S. forces, Afghan National Police, Afghan Border Police, Afghan National Army, and emergency fire and medical services. Exchanging information and discussing what they can do to better serve the citizens of the province, provincial law enforcement representatives and Task Force Raptor soldiers meet weekly at the coordination center. While the center's successes are numerous, the highest-profile program thus far has been the implementation of an emergency phone number based on the U.S. 911 system. Dialing 100 in Jalalabad provides quick access to emergency responders 24 hours a day.
"They dial three numbers, and they can talk to the (Afghan National Police)," said Army 1st Lt. Jeff Reed, officer in charge of the Joint Provincial Coordination Center, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 173rd Special Troops Battalion.
"If they need to talk to anybody, if there is anything going on, from this center they can dispatch fire trucks, ambulances, police patrols, or they can just ask questions," Reed said.
The JPCC averages 25 to 50 calls on the 100 number on a normal day. Some days, that number surpasses 100 calls. For now, the majority of the calls are to check whether the number actually works. It does.
Afghan National Police respond to the 10 percent of calls that provide actionable information.
The program is another step forward in Afghanistan's progress, Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milhorn, 173rd Special Troops Battalion and Task Force Raptor commander, said.
"Generally, the people are now securing themselves," Milhorn said. "They now have a communications network established that they can tie back to the JPCC immediately and get a relatively rapid response."
As with any new program, obstacles had to be overcome, said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Roth, JPCC noncommissioned officer in charge, assigned to HHC, 173rd STB.
"The initial problems were dealing with the different phone carriers," he said. "Now they have lines for everybody, regardless of whatever phone carrier the people are using. They can call in and make contact."
Afghan National Police Maj. Abdul Gadim said that although crank calls to the toll-free number have been an annoyance in the early going, he's impressed with the success of the program.
"It's fantastic," he said. "It's great. If there's a problem, we can jump on it and help the people."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Caldwell serves in public affairs with 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team.)