War on Terrorism

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Vermont general prepares for new mission in Afghanistan

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy
National Guard Bureau

(12/10/09) -- The Vermont National Guard’s second in command recently learned that he will join the 1,500 other Vermont Soldiers that are set to deploy to Afghanistan early next year. Army Brig. Gen. Jonathan Farnham, the Vermont Guard’s joint staff director, will head up the newly created Afghan National Security Forces Development Assistance Bureau, which will oversee the training of Afghanistan’s security forces.

“It appears that my group will be doing some data collection, some analysis, receiving reports and doing some war-gaming of things to make suggestions on how to improve on how things are going given the resources that are available,” said Farnham in an interview with Vermont Public Radio Dec. 8.

He added that he will lead about 100 Soldiers, including some military members from Macedonia, which is one of Vermont’s State Partnership Program countries.

Farnham’s mission in Afghanistan is an offshoot of the Vermont Guard’s original mission of heading up Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, which was responsible for training the Afghan National Army.

“I know that Task Force Phoenix, which we originally believed that Vermont would be manning and managing, is in the process of going away and being reorganized,” he said. “It appears to me to be a little leaner and a smaller footprint than it originally was.”

The role of Farnham’s bureau is to monitor the training and make recommendations on how to improve that training.

“I understand that one of the responsibilities of the bureau will be to gather the information and do some monitoring of things and make recommendations that maybe folks that are so close to it may not see on a daily basis,” said Farnham. “And, hopefully help to accomplish the missions of the commander on the ground and to help provide some positive input on how things can be improved or streamlined.”

Farnham said he sees the bureau as providing a lasting legacy in Afghanistan. “The bureau itself is designed to be an enduring piece of what will remain there for what will be awhile in terms of monitoring how things are going in Afghanistan from the coalition force perspective,” he said.

While many of the other deploying Vermont Soldiers have had months to prepare for the deployment, Farnham was notified last week that he was to deploy.

“This has been a very compressed and condensed, very hectic week and we’ve had to make a lot of decisions here,” he said. “I did have a discussion with my family and they’re in the shock mode.”

And as a senior leader of the Vermont Guard that also may mean a reshuffling of roles among Vermont’s senior leaders.

“Obviously, as a senior person from the Guard how we will cover down on that, said Farnham. “We will have things well covered here at home and of course our focus will remain on the families of the deployed Soldiers and supporting them, that’s number one.”

As for now, Farnham is preparing for the upcoming mission and sees the mission as an important one and one key to long term successes.

“I believe that success will be measured in the fact that we are going to continue to turn over the destiny and the long-term rule of Afghanistan to the Afghan people and its government,” said Farnham. “I think our success will be the more they can do and the sooner they can do it … that will be our measure of success.”

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