By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 20, 2009 - Soldiers from the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are playing a supporting role in today's elections in Afghanistan, the unit commander told reporters yesterday. "[It] is a very big day," said Army Brig. Gen. Larry E. Dudney Jr., commander of Task Force Phoenix 9 in Kabul. "We're excited to be a part of it. The Afghan people are taking an active role in the election. There are some that really want to keep this election from going off in a very successful manner. However, the will of the Afghan people will prevail. The Afghans are taking the lead in this, and ... we're here if they need us."
The brigade's mission is to mentor and train Afghan national security forces, including the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan border police.
"It's not going to be an easy job here," Dudney said. "But we've seen the resolve in the Afghan soldiers we are working with here. ... They want to succeed as well. They are going to have to be able to, at some point in time, secure their borders."
Dudney said the Georgia brigade is uniquely qualified for this type of work, because it includes part-time soldiers with backgrounds in law enforcement, education and banking. "We come from all walks of life," the general said. "This mission is something we're all excited about, [and] we've worked very hard for."
In their key-leader engagements, Dudney said, his soldiers have begun to foster working relationships with the district police chiefs and Afghan army commanders. "They are a very, very proud people ... and have a warrior spirit that is second to none."
The brigade has been in Afghanistan for almost two months. It will take over for the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard later this month.
Dudney said his soldiers continue to see improvements in the skills and dedication of the Afghan security forces.
"We're here at a very exciting time in the history of Afghanistan," Dudney said. "We will be a part of something very, very good here. They will have a say in how their government will be run and operated."
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)