Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie
February 18, 2010 - Col. Tim Lawson, commander of the 16 Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan as an embedded training team, or ETT, admitted that the calendar is playing a significant role in his team's elevated morale.
"We're about 30 days from going home," he said.
Lawson said the two-week transition process has begun in northern Afghanistan with the arrival Feb. 15 of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. Following the transfer of authority, Lawson's team will begin out-processing from the Afghan theater of operations, a necessary precursor to returning to Wisconsin.
Originally tasked with training and mentoring the Afghan National Police, the ETT was given a new mission and a new area of operations following the presidential elections last August. Most of the team moved to the German-controlled sector of Regional Command North and supported the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), which recently merged with the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A). Two team members remained in the western part of Afghanistan and conduct missions outside military bases on a daily basis, Lawson said. The majority of the team now works alongside Afghan engineers to survey sites and request funds for new training centers and forward operating bases.
"We're just trying to build stuff for the Afghans," Lawson explained. "The team is doing a good job and fits into the role well, doing what they can to get the job done."
Lawson said that at times, the pace of progress in Afghanistan was frustrating.
"A lot of Afghans want to do right," he said. "A lot are corrupt. Those make for competing factors. The resurgence of the Taliban is certainly a factor as well. On any given day, if you wanted to pick a fight you could."
But his team is largely safe on its current mission, Lawson said, and the U.S. military is increasing its presence in the north. He noted that, despite the changes, his team maintained a can-do attitude.
"Those guys showed that it doesn't really matter what you ask them to do," he said. "They'll do it and do it well. They used Wisconsin ethics and drive to make it happen."