War on Terrorism

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Minnesota, Croatian troops assist in Afghan election

By Tech. Sgt. Casey J. Martin
RC-North Public Affairs Advisory Team

CAMP MIKE SPANN, Afghanistan (9/21/10) - In the early hours of the morning, while the majority of Camp Mike Spann troops lay asleep in their tents, members of the Minnesota National Guard and Croatian Operational Mentor and Liaison Team 47 performed vehicle and weapon systems inspections in preparation for an upcoming mission.

What the nearly 40 U.S. and coalition troops are about to embark on is a mission to support an historic and significant event for the people of Afghanistan. They will aid the Afghan National Army in providing security in the northern provinces in preparation for the first Afghan-run parliamentary elections since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

“We all know how important these missions are to their ANA 209th Corps 4th Kandak soldiers we mentor at Camp Shaheen,” said Army Capt. Christopher Reid, an officer mentor in the Minnesota National Guard unit forward deployed to northern Afghanistan. “While the Taliban works to cause havoc with the election process, the ANA troops are ready to provide security for those wanting to vote at the polls.”

Ahead of schedule, the convoy of seven vehicles leaves the safety of Camp Mike Spann, a U.S. and coalition base located within the ANA 209th Corps training base, Camp Shaheen, and sets out to join their ANA partners in the unforgiving mountainous terrain. 

“The elections are a symbol of a new Afghanistan, one absent of foreign occupying powers or oppressive religious-political masters,” said Army Maj. David Baer, commanding officer of the Minnesota National Guard unit here. “For many, this will be the first time they can affect the direction their country may take.”

The convoy rolls through the last of the ANA base’s gates out into the open countryside and before long the armored trucks, designed to survive improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes, enter a series of villages crowded with people lining the streets in celebration of the end of Eid – a joyous three-day Muslim holiday that signifies the end of Ramadan.

While young children donned in colorful outfits enjoy the festivities and wave energetically at the passing convoy, the troops remain cognizant of the treacherous environment. The route has a history of being dangerous, with both Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops having come under attack in the not-so-distant past. 

Each oncoming car, passing truck or group of people standing along the road is announced over the intercommunication system in each of the seven vehicles comprising the convoy.

After nearly an hour the convoy reaches its destination in the Chimtal District. The trucks pull off to the side of the road and troops form into a defensive position outside an Afghan National Police center, temporarily manned by ANA for the duration of the elections. 

Inside the main building, the ANA leadership awaits their coalition counterparts to discuss election security. 

“Our ANA soldiers are nearing a point where they can stand on their own against this foe but until then, we’ll be standing by to assist them,” said Reid.

After a lengthy meeting, in which the Croatians and Americans, who are joined as part of the National Guard State Partnership Programs, and the Afghans examined their joint security operations plan, coalition troops mounted up and rolled out, leaving the 4th Kandak soldiers behind at the facility.

“We’re here so that the Afghans can choose their own government in a free and honest way,” said Baer, acknowledging that coalition forces will not be in the country indefinitely. “The ANA and ANP are taking the lead in their military operations and will become the backbone of the nation’s strength once coalition forces depart Afghanistan.”

On the return route home, the convoy hop-scotches its way back to Camp Mike Spann weaving through different villages to minimize the likelihood of ambushes and avoid providing terrorist with a signature of the coalition’s operations. 

While the coalition forces return to the base, their minds and hearts remain with the people of Afghanistan, wishing for them a peaceful week where voters will feel safe enough to venture out to one of the 18,000 polling stations in the country and cast their ballots. 

“It’s because of our hard work that the future in Afghanistan will be great,” said ANA 209th Corps Sgt. Maj. Jawad Ahmadi, 4th Kandak.  “We are working very hard to make the future great.”

Before ever casting a vote in these elections, the Afghan’s determination to become an independent nation was conveyed clearly. 

In the days leading up to the Sept. 18 elections, the world witnessed the courage, resolve and determination of the Afghan people to pursue their democratic right to vote, despite repeated threats and intimidation by the Taliban. 

While the results and overall quality of the election will not be known until Oct. 30, when the final certified results are announced, the ANSF, Minnesota National Guard and Croatian OMLT 47 believe the successful election initiatives are one more triumph to add to Afghanistan’s growing list of achievements that support a secure and stable future for its citizens.

No comments: