Monday, March 31, 2014
By Army Sgt. Antony S. Lee
Regional Command South
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 31, 2014 – The first time Army Staff Sgt. Dane Lentz deployed to Afghanistan it was 2009, and Lentz lived on a small base in Kandahar province near Forward Operating Base Pasab.
It would become so sultry in his tent that Lentz and his fellow 4th Infantry Division soldiers had to spend time in designated air-conditioned rooms.
“It was so hot that the generators wouldn’t work during daytime,” said Lentz, who recently arrived once again in southern Afghanistan to serve on his third deployment. “With the living conditions here, I don’t think we’ll run into that problem.”
Lentz has spent his entire Army career -- other than his initial entry training -- with the 4th Infantry Division. All three of his deployments have been with 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. All three tours of duty have been to Afghanistan.
“This one is more focused on letting the Afghans take control of their country,” he said. “That way, they’ll be prepared when we leave, and they can sustain security of their country.”
Lentz joined the Army on Aug. 6, 2008, and he arrived at Fort Carson, Colo., after completing infantry training.
“I joined right out of high school. I felt like it was my duty,” he said.
Lentz is a reconnaissance team leader, and he hopes to use the experience he gained from his first two deployments to better prepare the members of his team. His knowledge of the terrain and weather of Afghanistan will help him in knowing what to expect during missions, he said.
His battalion’s mission is to secure the areas around Kandahar’s airfield, Lentz added.
Lentz re-enlisted during his second deployment to Afghanistan while he was serving in Regional Command East, and he plans to re-enlist again this deployment in Regional Command South.
Everyone, Lentz said, should consider serving a hitch in the military. “It teaches you more about yourself,” he said.
After three deployments in Afghanistan over the last five years, Lentz believes the Afghan forces are prepared to provide security for their country.
“We’ve been here for a long time, training [the Afghan National Security Forces],” he said. “I think it’s good that they’re ready to take control of the country and defend it against whatever’s thrown at them.”
Lentz hails from Newfoundland, Pa. After living in Colorado for six years, he says he loves it there. He goes snowboarding in winter and camping in summer, and his wife and son currently live there.
He hopes to become a sniper instructor upon his return to the United States.
Thursday, March 27, 2014
By Marine Corps Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
Regional Command Southwest
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan, March 27, 2014 – On March 15, a bright-eyed baby girl was born at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y. However, her father, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kalib K. Walker, was thousands of miles away serving his country in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Walker, an automatic rifleman with Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, and a native of Freeport, N.Y., had been training for his second deployment to Afghanistan when his wife, Mariolbis, told him she was pregnant. During his pre-deployment training he was given a rough estimate of his deployment date and was hopeful he would be present for the birth of his first child, Kylie. He departed the United States ten days prior to her birth.
“When I found out my due date and realized it was around the same time Kalib was deploying, I was heartbroken,” said Mariolbis Walker, Kalib’s wife. “Knowing he wasn’t going to be able to be with me in the delivery room to experience her birth was miserable.”
Kalib’s prior deployment to Afghanistan during 2012 was kinetic. He went on several patrols and missions each week and encountered enemy fire on a regular basis. The battalion’s mission this deployment is to conduct security force assistance to defeat enemy forces throughout their battlespace, limited offensive operations and set conditions for the transfer of full security responsibilities to Afghan National Security Forces in Helmand province.
“I’m constantly asking myself if he is alright,” Mariolbis said. “I’m worried about the possibility of him not coming home and never meeting his daughter.”
Fortunately, for the time being, Kalib has been able to visually contact Mariolbis and Kylie by using video chat on his phone with the available Wi-Fi. While he lives at Camp Bastion, he makes an effort to see his wife and child as much as possible. Due to the time zone difference between New York and Afghanistan, Kalib wakes up in the morning before the sun rises to see his wife and daughter before they fall asleep at night.
Not being there for a loved one during a time of need can put a tremendous amount of stress on an individual, especially if the individual is away in a combat zone where tomorrows are never promised. Unlike his first deployment, he now has a wife and child awaiting his return.
“I’m happy and proud to be a father,” Kalib said. “Having a child definitely changed the way I think and act because I don’t just make decisions for myself anymore. I make them for my family. I feel terrible because I can’t be there for my wife when she needs me most, but I volunteered to fight for my country as a Marine Corps infantryman, and this is one of the sacrifices I have to make.”
Kalib is slated to return home to his family in September. This is his final deployment before his current contract with the Marine Corps ends.
“I know as hard as this deployment is for me, it’s 10 times harder for him because he is away from his newborn daughter,” Mariolbis said. “I hope he knows how proud we are of what he is doing for our country. I know he is going to be an awesome father, and I can’t wait for him to start bonding with Kylie.”
One of the first things Kalib plans to do when he returns from Afghanistan is to take his wife and daughter to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Kalib plans to pursue a college education and work for a local fire department after completing his active service in the Marine Corps.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jason Robertson
U.S. Air Forces Central
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 25, 2014 – Wearing 50 pounds of armor and carrying an M-4 assault rifle with a full combat load, a U.S. Air Force recruiter is working to recruit the future of the Afghan air force.
Deployed as an advisor with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing and NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan, Senior Master Sgt. Carmelo Vega Martinez is the only Air Force recruiter deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and possibly the only U.S. Air Force recruiter ever deployed to Afghanistan.
A Ponce, Puerto Rico, native, Vega Martinez brings a vast knowledge to this deployment. He graduated from recruiting school in 1995, and has spent the last 19 years of his 24-year career as a recruiter. Back at home station, he serves as production superintendent for the 368th Recruiting Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
"It's very unusual for a recruiter to deploy," Vega Martinez said. "I've been bringing people in the Air Force for almost 20 years, and I thought, ‘What a great opportunity to go out and see our airmen doing the things I've been recruiting them for.’"
Working on an Afghan air force base here, Vega Martinez's mission is to advise the Afghan air force on establishing and sustaining a recruiting service for years to come. This task also requires him to occasionally leave the safety of the base and visit Afghan recruiters in the national capital.
"I'm a one-man shop here to help the Afghan recruiting team," Vega Martinez said. "Back home, I'm responsible for almost 50 people across seven states, so I spend a lot of time on the phone. Here I've been able to focus more on these guys, because they're my mission. Getting these guys trained as a capable recruiting force able to sustain the Afghan air force is my job."
The Afghan air force is not independent of the Afghan army, and it shares the army’s recruiting resources. Two months into his six-month deployment, Vega Martinez said, he sees progress toward development of an effective recruiting service.
"When I got here, the recruiting team had no training and were unknown, even within Afghan channels, as a valid recruiting team," he said. "Through my interaction with them, I've been able to get the leadership and all the moving parts together to get them moving along."
Like any working relationship, it took a while to get used to working with the Afghans and for the Afghans to get used to him, Vega Martinez said.
"I've found that working with the Afghans, I've had to really hit the brakes and spend some time researching and trying to understand not only their culture, but their system, and how things get accomplished here," Vega Martinez said.
The experienced recruiter quickly learned that Afghans are about relationships. He said he was able to gain their trust and respect by helping them with their first recruiting symposium with Afghan leadership.
"He's helped our air force in a better way," said an Afghan airman whose name is withheld for security reasons.
"I'm definitely certain the effort here has given these guys the basics they need to build a sustainable program and air force for years to come," Vega Martinez said. "I think when I leave, if things keep going the way they're going now, I'll leave with the satisfaction that we set them up for success."
Friday, March 21, 2014
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2014 – Today is Nowruz, the first day of Afghan Year 1393, and Marine Corps Col. Michael E. Langley said his Afghan “brothers” assure him this year will be a year of prosperity.
Langley and about 100 other international service members are working to train, advise and assist the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army. He spoke today via teleconference from his headquarters in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
“We train, advise and support the corps writ large to achieve their operational successes and mainly to develop sustainability and their institutional capability across the board,” Langley said.
There is a tactical piece to the training, he added, but the biggest mission now is what he called “institutional management.” This encompasses battlefield tactics, maintenance, requisition of parts, and maintenance of infrastructure.
“I look at it as warfighting capabilities are our first line of operations – operational planning, coordination and execution,” the colonel said.
Then there is what American service members would call Title 10 responsibilities. Title 10 refers to the U.S. law that makes the services responsible to “man, train and equip” the force.
The Afghan army is still building, “so I advise the corps commander on manning, training and equipping his unit,” Langley said. The assistance and training covers the full gamut of activities a military must accomplish to field a force, from personnel to intelligence to logistics to operations to financial management.
An Afghan corps is roughly the equivalent of an American division. The corps commander has to be both a tactical commander and involved in manning, training and equipping his troops. “He has to fight his forces to achieve security and stability in the battle space,” Langley explained, “but he also has to make sure they grow and be a resource provider.”
Afghan Gen. Sayed Maluk has been the 215th Corps commander since the unit stood up in 2010. They have the tactical portion down – the Afghans are good fighters, Langley said. “General Maluk’s responsibility in a very kinetic part of Afghanistan was to win,” the colonel said.
As the situation on the ground stabilized, Langley said, the general had to worry about the sustainment part of commanding the corps catching up later as Afghan literacy got higher.
“The Afghans have the aptitude. They just need the time to develop into good mechanics, fixing generators and running the infrastructure,” Langley said. “Getting capacity and capability in those areas will take some years. Learning to sustain the formation is more difficult and time-consuming and will be a big part of Operation Resolute Support,” the mission that will begin Jan. 1 if a bilateral security agreement is signed and U.S. forces remain in Afghanistan beyond this year.
The next decisive point for the 215th Corps is next month’s national election. How the corps does, Langley said, will provide metrics for his team.
“Afghan security forces have to ensure the population feels secure enough to vote,” he added. “They have to secure the ballots themselves and transport them to the collection points. We’re confident they can do this.”