War on Terrorism

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Vermont Guardsmen Make a Difference in Afghanistan

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

June 10, 2010 - The soldiers of the Vermont Army National Guard's 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team have been working hard to make a difference during their deployment to Afghanistan, the brigade's commander told reporters recently.

"Across the board, our soldiers are extremely happy about what they're doing," said Army Col. Will Roy. "They know it's a very important time in Afghanistan for both our country and the Afghans and they really see the difference they are making on a daily basis."

The Guardsmen, Roy said, have been working hand-in-hand with Afghan security forces.

"We work with the chiefs of police, we work with policemen and we work with Afghan battalion commanders and company commanders," he said. "So, our focus is on helping to increase their overall capability and work with them as they go throughout the villages to help protect [the villagers] from insurgents."

Vermont Guard soldiers were among the first forces to respond to the May 19, 2010 attack on Bagram Airfield when insurgents attempted to breach multiple barriers around the base at about 3 a.m. local time, Roy said. Eighteen insurgents died and five were captured.

"In the end, it was an extremely futile attempt to break into an extremely secure base, a base that we continue to improve our security on and continue to rehearse how to respond to attacks of this nature," he said.

One of the results of the attack came as a surprise to the Vermont Guardsmen, Roy said.

"We had a local Afghan walking toward our front gate with a weapon, all by himself," the colonel said. "He walked up to the front gate and turned around and sat down. When we asked him what was going on, he said that no one was going to attack Bagram again while he was here."

The lone villager felt compelled to help out at the base, because the Vermont soldiers were working with local Afghan security forces to make area villages safer.

"They [are] out, dismounted, going through the villages and they were out in those villages time and time again building relationships with the village elders and the people to the point where they were pointing out insurgents to us so we could capture them," Roy said.

The incident is an example of the greater role of the Guard unit's mission.

"This just goes to show that this mission is not just about conducting military operations against insurgents," Roy said. "But it's about working with the Afghan people and the Afghan security forces in creating a safe and secure environment for the next generation of Afghans."

The brigade is roughly halfway through its deployment, and morale continues to be high, Roy said, thanks in part to support from those back in Vermont.

"You have much to be proud of your soldiers," he said. "We've got a long road ahead, but we're making steady progress. Your Green Mountain Boys are making a difference here every day."

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