War on Terrorism

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Pennsylvania Guardmembers partner with Afghan security forces

By Army Capt. Kenneth A. Stewart
17th Public Affairs Detachment

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (1/6/11) - The Pennsylvania Army National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters Stability-Transition Team, also known as the Normandy Tactical Command Post, recently welcomed in the new year at Forward Operating Base Lightning.

The primary mission of the transition team is to advise Afghan security forces, particularly the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps. They advise everyone from the commanding general to Afghan engineers.

Army Col. James F. Chisholm IV, of Elizabeth, Pa., is the senior advisor at Normandy TAC. He is building on the legacy left by members of the Indiana Stability Transition Team his unit replaced in October.

Chisholm noted the progress his predecessors made with the ANA and seeks to repeat their success as he partners with not only the ANA, but with the Afghan Uniformed Police and the Afghan Border Police.

Chisholm sees partnership with the AUP and the ABP as the key to a successful future.

He predicts Afghan security forces will eventually partner with each other, and the need for the International Security Assistance Force will diminish.

Chisholm said he is hopeful, but realistic about the difficulty of the road ahead.

“Afghan forces have the same issues integrating with each other that American forces do,” he said. “We have to break down organizational stereotypes.”

One way the transition team breaks down walls and combats organizational stereotypes is through their work with the Operational Coordination Center, Regional located at FOB Lightning’s sister base FOB Thunder. 

Army Lt. Col. Kevin Miller of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., noted the central role of the OCC-R.

“We have a broad vision for increasing the capabilities of Afghan security forces, particularly through the OCC-R,” Miller said.

The ability of transition team members to work with Afghan security forces is by design. The team was built from the ground up by handpicking staff members from the Pennsylvania National Guard. 

Not all servicemembers serving with the transition team come from Pennsylvania, but the FOB has a certain Pennsylvanian flavor. Steelers fans and their memorabilia are abundant.

Chisholm, Miller and the senior-enlisted advisor, Army Sgt. Maj. Ron Maraffi of Slippery Rock, Pa., all attended the same high school. Interestingly, Chisholm (who is now senior in rank) is the youngest of the group.

Though not a member of the Guard, the commander of FOB Lightning’s operations company, Army Capt. Scott Frederick, is from York, Pa.

Frederick’s leadership was instrumental in the transition team’s response to a December suicide attack. He spoke frankly about how the attack affected his Soldiers’ relationship with their ANA counterparts.

“The attack tested our partnership, but the ANA took ownership of the (security) problem and our relationship is stronger because of it,” said Frederick.

Despite the brutality of the Taliban’s attack, it seems to have rallied both Afghan and transition team members against a common threat.

With their resolve hardened and a clear vision for the future, transition team members appear determined to strengthen their partnership with Afghan security forces and bring greater stability to eastern Afghanistan.

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