By Army Pfc. Christina N. Sinders
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 8, 2008 - Long known to protect the waters surrounding the United States, the question asked each time someone sees them is, "What is the U.S. Coast Guard doing here?" Chief Petty Officer Daniel Kinville and Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Kowalewski are part of an eight-person unit from the Coast Guard's 1179th Deployment Support Brigade, and are the only two Coast Guard personnel in Afghanistan.
"Usually, everyone's first reaction when they see us is shock," said Kowalewski, a Pittsburgh native. "They can't seem to figure out why we're so far from the U.S. coast and why we're in a landlocked country."
The answer lies in the Coast Guard's reputation for keen attention to detail with paperwork, packing, customs and hazardous-materials shipping and storage -- their ability to continually ship containers across oceans without frustration issues. Based on this expertise, Army officials requested the Coast Guard's help with redeploying and sealifting their gear.
The Coastie duo adds another flavor to the vast assortment of uniforms here, and for many soldiers, seeing a Bagram-based Coastie holds a silver lining, Kowalewski said.
"The soldiers get really excited when they see us," she explained. "They know that once we get here and start customs services, [it] means they are getting closer to going home."
Kinville and Kowalewski are serving nine-month deployments, and neither is performing duties typical to their Coast Guard specialty. As a prerequisite for their duties here, each had to go through extensive hazardous-materials handling and packing and shipping courses, followed by convoy travel and weapons training.
Still, the additional training and stepping out of normal roles expands a servicemember's breadth of experience, said Kinville, a Yorktown, Va., native.
"We get the experience of working with the Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines. This is something totally different than what we do back in the states," he said.
They were both startled when they heard a 155 mm Howitzer fire for the first time, and Kowalewski experienced her first helicopter ride.
"The chance to be here, [to] see the front lines with the soldiers [and to] experience their way of life in and around the different stages of deployment is really amazing," Kinville said. "I'm proud to be able to support them and help where I can."
(Army Pfc. Christina N. Sinders serves in the Combined Joint Task Force 101 Public Affairs Office.)