War on Terrorism

Monday, April 30, 2012

Afghanistan: Texas Guard member shows Afghans “sweet” business opportunity

Army 1st Lt. Adam Carrington
Task Force Mad Dog

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The Soldiers of Task Force Mad Dog - headed up by the California Army National Guard’s 578th Engineer Battalion and made up of a variety of Army National Guard engineer units - recently completed a major construction project building eight bases here.

The project also saw the Guard members working alongside partnered units from the Afghan National Army.

“When we were tasked with this build, I was initially worried about how we were going to maintain our partnership operations,” said Army 1st Lt. Joe Lee, TF Mad Dog ANA coordinator.

“Then we realized that this was a perfect training opportunity to co-locate and partner with an ANA engineer unit at a priority build site,” he said.

By partnering with the ANA, it meant not only additional training for the ANA engineer soldiers but also that critical construction deadlines could be met.

“The ANA are a real force multiplier for us,” said Army Capt. Robert Rogers, with the 1022nd Vertical Construction Company, part of TF Mad Dog. “There have been several occasions that we would have been dead in the water without their support.”

Many engineer partnerships had been centered on pairing up Afghan engineer units with route clearance companies. For many of the ANA engineers this was among the first projects where they were used in their capacity as construction engineers as the Afghan engineers were often used in more traditional infantry related roles.

A platoon from the ANA’s 3rd Brigade worked with the 1022ndVCC and began the mission focusing primarily on maintenance and ensuring the correct parts and supplies were available.

The ANA engineer unit soon took on their first full construction mission: building a vehicle fighting position. The ANA engineers also provided equipment critical to completing other missions. While building a concrete pad for a large tent, the engineers of the 1022nd VCC encountered drainage issues. The ANA soldiers were able to step in and fix the issue.

“Watching that ANA soldier operate that [hydraulic excavator] was like watching a perfectly choreographed dance,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Flatmoe, a platoon sergeant with the 842nd Horizontal Engineer Company, attached to the 1022nd VCC. “It was smooth, with no mistakes, and perfectly executed…. It was an amazing thing to watch.”

Because many of the construction projects were conducted throughout the winter, at times construction halted due to weather concerns. During that downtime, the Guard members and ANA soldiers trained together on common soldier skills, such as calling in a medical evacuation request.

“I have gotten good experience,” said ANA Lt. Shafi. “Like today they taught us about how to call for medevac, and they teach us a lot.”

And that combined effort ensured mission success.

“The ANA engineer soldiers and their equipment have really kept this build going on so many occasions,” Rogers said. “When we fell behind because of new construction requirements, the ANA have consistently been there to help us catch up. When a key piece of equipment breaks down, the ANA have theirs ready to continue the mission.”

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