War on Terrorism

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

On the Ground: U.S. Forces Foster Security, Growth in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

July 1, 2009 - U.S. forces demonstrated their ongoing commitment to improving security and development throughout Afghanistan in recent days, as several units took on new tasks and a reconstruction team helped to celebrate the opening of a new school. The 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, of Fort Carson, Colo., took responsibility for a key region of Konar province June 27 in a transfer-of-authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Blessing in the Pech district. The unit relieved the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, from Fort Hood, Texas.

"Eighteen 'Blue Spaders' gave their lives making Konar province a better place for Afghanistan," said Army Lt. Col. Brian L. Pearl, commander of the 2nd Battalion. "Collectively, we will continue to transform Konar province into the pride of Afghanistan."

The "Lethal Warriors" of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, are scheduled to operate in Konar for the next 12 months.

In eastern Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team handed over responsibility for their operational area to the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team on June 26 at Forward Operating Base Fenty.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team, known as Task Force Mountain Warrior, assumed responsibility for missions to improve security and development in the Nangarhar, Nuristan, Konar and Laghman provinces. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, or Task Force Duke, had been conducting operations in the area for the past 15 months.

"We have trained hard in the mountains of Colorado for the demanding terrain of this mission," said Army Col. Randy A. George, the brigade commander. "Task Force Mountain Warrior is ready to get to work."

During a June 20 ceremony, the 4th Infantry Division's 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, assumed responsibility for operations in eastern Nuristan province at Forward Operating Base Bostick, relieving the 1st Infantry Division's 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, from Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Lt. Col. Robert B. Brown, 3rd Squadron commander, thanked the 6th Squadron and spoke on the way ahead. "All of our soldiers look forward to working over the next year with the Afghan army, the Afghan security guards and our police partners," he said.

Also looking ahead, Army Capt. Booker Wilson, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division Special Troops Battalion, Company B, met with local Afghan leaders June 20 to discuss issues affecting residents of Dandar village in Parwan province's Kohe Safi district. Local leaders' concerns include quality of drinking water, dilapidated irrigation systems and roads, lack of jobs, security, schools and school supplies.

According to the Central Intelligence Agency, the unemployment rate in Afghanistan is about 40 percent.

"Almost everyone in our village is jobless, so they go to Iran and Pakistan for work," said Naqibullah, a village elder and teacher in Sanjali.

Wilson offered potential solutions. "Find us contractors from across the province and hire [workers] from your village, and ... we will pay you to build schools and fix the irrigation systems and roads," he told Naqibullah.

On the topic of security, Wilson said he would "look into bringing a larger security presence to Lalabamba village."

"We are trying to incorporate area support groups with police mentorships and U.S. soldiers to increase security in the village," said Army 1st Sgt. Ramah Wilson of Company B.

As U.S. and Afghan leaders plan for the future, a plan has come to fruition in Panjshir province with the opening of a new girls' school.
Members of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team joined Gov. Haji Bahlol; Zulami Saheen, the province's director of education; and other distinguished guests to celebrate the opening of the Haish Saidqi Girls' School on June 23.

Bahlol dedicated the ceremony to Air Force Lt. Col. Mark Stratton, the team commander. Stratton was killed May 26
when a suicide bomber detonated a roadside bomb by the convoy he was riding in.

The school, funded by the provincial reconstruction team, had been under construction for a year. The residents of Rokha and the nearby villages of Shast, Pai Chinar and Molakhel formally petitioned for the school. In an academic year, more than 500 girls will attend classes there, officials said, many going to school for the first time.

Although Haish Saidqi is designated as a girls' school, a small number of boys will attend as well. In this area of Panjshir, local custom dictates that boys and girls can attend class together until third grade. After that, classrooms must be separated by gender.

"This school means a lot to the future of these girls," Saheen said through an interpreter. "They used to study in destroyed buildings and temporary facilities. Now they have things like good desks and blackboards."

Following the ceremony, the reconstruction team signed responsibility for the school over to the director of education.

The team is working on 12 education projects worth $2.8 million, including nine schools, two dormitories and a multipurpose building that will be used as a library and laboratory.

(Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 news releases. Contributors to the reports include: Army 2nd Lt. Liz Silver of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, Army Spc. Eugene Cushing of the 4th Infantry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team, Army Pfc. Cody A. Thompson of the 40th Public Affairs Detachment and Air Force Capt. Stacie N. Shafran of the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team.)

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