War on Terrorism

Friday, February 11, 2011

Iowa National Guardmembers help Afghans improve winter storm response

By Army Staff Sgt. Ashlee Lolkus
Combined Joint Task Force 101

PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (2/11/11) - Iowa National Guardmembers are teaching Afghan emergency managers how to use one of their state’s planning tools to improve winter storm response.

Guardmembers in the Panjshir Embedded Training Team, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Task Force Red Bulls are working with the Operations Coordination Center-Provincial to improve the Panjshir government’s emergency winter response planning.

The OCC-P team includes Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and National Directorate of Security officials, who represent their respective agencies for Panjshir Province.

The ETT supports the OCC-P by working with each staff section in plans development and operations.

“We have a plan for emergency situations,” ANA Col. Rajab Khan, OCC-P commander, said through an interpreter during a training session Feb. 7. “We have a plan for each agency, and we are working to bring them together.”

Under Panjshir’s emergency winter response plan structure, the governor has identified who can provide food, shelter and extra clothing. But then the government waits for external help from agencies in Kabul, said Army Lt. Col. Tim Glynn, ETT commander.

The ETT hopes to expand that plan by helping the province take care of itself internally and offered an Emergency Decision Matrix provided by the state of Iowa’s emergency response center.

The matrix is a summarized version of the Iowa Emergency Management Response Plan which is hundreds of pages long.

About an eighth of the size of the entire response plan, the matrix offers step-by-step procedures on how Iowa government agencies respond to differing emergencies, including winter weather issues.

The partnered training has benefited the OCC-P staff and they have enjoyed it, said Khan.

“They train us on blizzard response and what we need to do if the snow creates problems,” he said.

“I want to thank Lt. Col. Glynn and his team for the training, especially the computer training. We have had the computers, but didn’t know how to use them until now.”

Part of Glynn’s plan for emergency response was to help the Afghans build a document with written procedures for differing emergencies, like the Iowa Emergency Decision Matrix.

To help with the process, they also trained their Afghan counterparts how to use the computers, a skill they learned incredibly fast, Glynn said.

“These guys are sharp,” he said. “They (were) commanders during the Russian and Taliban wars.”

Although building this plan will take time and effort, it will end up being a valuable asset when an emergency happens.

“It’s painful to go through step-by-step, but once it’s complete it will be a great help,” Glynn said.

Throughout the afternoon, Glynn discussed the decision-making process while using an interpreter to translate the lessons.

He asked questions about the importance of saving lives, communication, road clearing and many other aspects of emergency winter response.

The room was full of energy as the staff members responded to each question and participated in the discussion. Glynn jotted down notes on a white board to document the discussion points to add to the written plan.

The training concluded with a rough draft of a plan, with which all participants seemed content.

According to the ETT, the Afghan government officials are now a few steps closer in completing their blizzard emergency response plan in the hope of helping and protecting Afghans.

“They want to help,” said Glynn. “They are excited to help.”

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