War on Terrorism

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Soldiers Meet With Leaders in Remote Afghan Province

By Army Spc. William E. Henry
Special to American Forces Press Service

Dec. 24, 2009 - Over mountainous terrain, a pair of UH-47 Chinook helicopters glided through the cold air to the remote village of Shaykh Ali in Afghanistan's Parwan province Dec. 19, carrying nearly 45 Task Force Cyclone team members. Their mission: to speak with district leaders, police and villagers about how to better serve and contribute to the local people.

The group unloaded off the helicopters swiftly in the snow-covered fields to meet Afghan National Police officers. They then moved to the village center, where they met with the district subgovernor, business owners and townspeople.

Leading the team of Task Force Gladius soldiers, who are in charge of security for all of the areas within Parwan province, was Army Capt. Booker Wilson, commander of B Company, 82nd Division Special Troops Battalion. Wilson said the people he spoke to were friendly and pleased with the recent and earlier operations in their area.

"The people of Shaykh Ali were hospitable and engaging," Wilson said. "They were pleased with current coalition forces and past coalition force actions, and requested more coalition force and Afghan government involvement."

A human terrain team research manager, Army 1st Lt. Raphael Howard, had similar thoughts on how the people responded to the visit from coalition forces.

"The people we interviewed were very happy to speak with us and happy to see that coalition forces were interested in them," Howard said. "They were particularly happy at just being able to express their concerns. The children in the area were especially behaved, and are a credit to their families and village."

Task Force Cyclone's senior civilian representative, Abigail Friedman of the State Department, also talked with the people.

"This mission was important to me, because it is critical that we connect with the people of Afghanistan and understand what their needs are and how the international presence in Afghanistan can help the people," Friedman said. "We were very well received, both by the village elders and in the bazaar by the local merchants and villagers."

Team members, the information from this mission will be used to develop a strategy that will help communities in the areas to be more self-sustaining. It also allows coalition forces to maintain a close relationship with the Afghan government, police and residents of the area to better serve the people of Parwan province.

"This mission allowed Task Force Gladius to assess the effects of current and recently completeled projects," said Wilson. "This assessment also allowed Task Force Gladius to gain a sample of public opinion concerning the effects of future projects concerning road expansion and project placement."

All agreed that this type of research is crucial to development and assessment of the area, as well as integration between civilian and military operations throughout the Task Force Cyclone area of operations.

"We work together well in the planning of these kinds of missions, and then, once on the ground, we seem to intuitively know how to help each other out," Friedman said. "Both the senior U.S. military officers and the senior civilians are active in engaging with the community and elders."

A couple of hours after arriving, the team converged back into the fields where they were dropped off, armed with new information and a better knowledge of the villagers living there. Hundreds of villagers gathered at the edges to watch them go.

(Army Spc. William E. Henry of the 38th Infantry Division's public affairs office serves with Task Force Cyclone.)

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