By Army Capt. Jeffrey Masengale and Army 2nd Lt. Steven Hassink
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 4, 2009 - Task Force Spartan soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, have been working closely with the local populace and security forces in Afghanistan's Vardak province since their deployment to Regional Command East two months ago. The "Catamount" battalion has had recent success with the Afghan security forces in the province's Jalrez and Sayed Abad districts. This partnership signifies a commitment to helping the Afghan government become better connected with outlying provinces, officials said.
Team Comanche, whose area of operations extends into eastern Vardak, conducts daily patrols over rugged terrain and in challenging weather to meet with local Afghans, listen to their concerns and address their needs.
During a recent visit to the village of Kololan, one team learned that the majority of the villagers are farmers who sell their produce in the local market. But while the town is agriculturally strong, it doesn't have a resident doctor, which forces villagers to travel long distances for medical care. Once the soldiers learned of the town's plight, they arranged to bring basic medical care during their next patrol. The platoon came back with two medics who provided medical care to 12 men and a woman.
"Providing humanitarian assistance to Vardak citizens is one of the most important steps we can take in forming positive relations that will lead to a cohesive struggle against economic decline and ultimately the defeat of enemy forces in their area," said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Stachura, an infantry officer with the Catamount battalion.
Aside from basic needs, the people of Vardak constantly struggle for a more secure environment. After only a few short weeks operating in the Sayed Abad district, Team Comanche has formed a successful partnership with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.
In an effort to strengthen efficiency and professionalism within the police force, Team Comanche has developed a five-day program that instructs police officers on weapons maintenance and safety, how to properly search personnel, room clearing, first aid, vehicle maintenance and combatives training. The program also focuses on basic decision-making for leaders through the implementation of a short situational training exercise.
Soldiers who have served as instructors for the course noted the high potential and motivation of the young local police officers.
"During these unstable years of war in Afghanistan, corruption has been an issue in the local government and among the ANP and even the ANA," said Army 2nd Lt. Chris Wallgreen, Team Comanche platoon leader. "These younger police officers are inspirational, because they want to represent their community and are honest about helping Vardak become more secure."
Initial training, which focuses on paramilitary operations, soon will transition to training for a more conventional policing role. An additional course that's being developed will further improve the tactical and professional quality of the police force, officials said.
(Army Capt. Jeffrey Masengale and Army 2nd Lt. Steven Hassink serve with the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment.)