KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Imams with the Jordanian Armed Forces, Jordanian Engagement Team, met with village elders, Mullahs and Afghan National Security Forces from Paktika and Khowst Provinces, June 11.
The Jordanian Imams, leaders or teachers of the Muslim religion, have been working on engagement teams since 2006 and spreading the Amman message, a calling for tolerance and unity in the Muslim world.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II first stated the Amman message, Nov. 9, 2004. It is based upon points of unanimous concensus from approximately 500 leading Islamic scholars and leaders world wide and are what Jordan’s military engagement efforts are based upon.
“We want to make sure peace and prosperity prevail in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Imam Sabri Ahmad Ali Alqudah, senior Imam with the Jordanian Engagement Team based out of Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. “We give assistance with Islam doctrine to the scholars and people of Afghanistan, as well as members of the [Afghan National] Army.”
Through the use of radical Islamic doctrine, the Taliban has been gaining recruits which, in turn, causes strain for Afghan National Security Forces and Mullahs alike.
The Mullahs and village elders expressed their wish for the Imam’s message to help keep that from happening.
“We all agree with the Jordanian Muslim scholars,” expressed Mullah Izhar Udin, a religious scholar from Khowst, Afghanistan. “We need the Imams to tell the Mullahs [supporting the Taliban], to prove to them, that the reason they are killing people is wrong.”
“We want the people to stop the competition, stop the fighting and have peace for all parties involved,” stated said Capt. Imam Sabri. “To be a good nation, people need to do the right things, stay away from the bad, as was stated by Allah.”
Delivering that message and preventing the Taliban from misusing Islamic doctrine to gain members, is the drive behind Jordan’s use of religious outreach and Teams.
“My two Imams and I came from Jordan to help and assist [the people of Afghanistan] in recommendation, consultation and clarification of Islamic doctrine and the Amman message,” said Maj. Abdel Latif, the officer in charge of the JET. “I would like for the commanders, Mullahs, village elders and citizens [of Afghanistan] to come together and put their hands together to build a better future for Afghanistan.”
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Approximately 6,600 paratroopers from the 101st Airborne Division, including the Currahees, filled the sky above Normandy as they entered in to combat for the first time, June 6, 1944.
In support of Operation Enduring Freedom, 69 years later, the Currahees are still answering their nation’s call to service.
Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team “Currahee”, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), donned their “Screaming Eagle” Shoulder Sleeve Insignia-Former Wartime Service during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, June 6.
Also known as the combat patch, SSI-FWS is worn on the upper right shoulder of the Soldier’s uniform, just below the American flag, denoting participation in a former wartime service.
“It’s really nice to finally get to wear a combat patch, I was kind of getting sick of being a ‘slick-sleeve’,” said Pfc. Katie Dove, a medic with Company C, 801st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. She wears the 101st “Screaming Eagle” combat patch with pride, now feeling camaraderie with the medics and all other servicemembers who have had the opportunity to do their job down-range.
That pride comes from the rich history the 101st Abn. Div., has built upon since they first set their feet on foreign soil in combat.
“The 101st Airborne division is 71 years old, but 69 years ago today the first Currahees, the first ‘Screaming Eagles’, were fighting for their lives,” said Col. Val C. Keaveny Jr., commander of the 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. He told the Soldiers that they were not just putting on a combat patch, they were putting on 69 years of history, and 69 years ago, the Currahees set a very high bar that we have to live up to.
“They set that bar 69 years ago, and for the last 69 years, Currahees all over the world have held that standard,” expressed Col. Keaveny.
Having the Soldiers don their patches 69 years after D-Day helped make this day even more important for the Currahees.
“Wearing this patch means a lot to me and the most important thing is the significance of what this day represents,” said Capt. Abby Raymond, the brigade dentist for the 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. “This is my first deployment and being able to have that camaraderie with others in the 101st Airborne Division is also really important.”
There were a number of Soldiers who earned “Screaming Eagle” as their first combat patch, there were some who have been waiting to earn this patch for some time.
“It took me 24 years to get this patch,” Col. Keaveny said. “I am incredibly proud of it and incredibly honored. We took 15 minutes to put a patch on [the Soldiers] right shoulder and forever, they are now undeniably part of the 101st family.”
“I’m happy to be a part of the 101st,” said Capt. Raymond. ”I will now always be a member of the 101st and a Currahee.”
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – When pipes break and faucets leak, you would normally just call a local plumber. But what if you were miles away from everything, on a hilltop in Afghanistan? Well, then you would call the Theater Engineer Brigade, Joint Task Force Triple Nickel.
As the principal engineer command supporting the International Security Assistance Force, JTF Triple Nickel’s team of roughly 5,000 Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen provides engineering support to coalition forces throughout Afghanistan. Now, that includes a “smart” new base support program that is working to replace the old ways they have operated.
“Configurable Small Maintenance and Repair Teams (C-SMART), is a way of getting at emergency… urgent problems with the infrastructure on a base of any size that is not covered by (contracted civilian services),” said Lt. Col. Andrew Ring, the JTF Triple Nickel construction officer.
According to Ring, as the coalition draws down to a smaller, more expeditionary force, a lot of those contracts are going away, and leaving areas without a dedicated contract for the maintenance.
So it is increasingly up to the military to bridge those gaps and take care of their own, and it is service members like U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob Villavicencio, an electrical systems craftsman and Alpha Team leader for the 577th Expeditionary Prime Beef Squadron, who are at the forefront of the newly structured teams.
The members of the 577th EPBS specialize in repairing… well, everything, according to Villavicencio.
“Our team is made up mostly of plumbers, carpenters, electricians and heating and air technicians to quickly repair any issues,” said Villavicencio.
On a recent trip to Combat Outpost, Matun Hill, the camp’s only well had quit working. The purpose of the well was to fill the camp’s water reserve for showers, latrines and laundry facilities.
“We just received the mission here, and about two days of receiving the mission our water system failed,” said Maj. Rich Schildman, executive officer, Security Forces Advisory and Assistance Team 10, “The team came here, assessed the situation and they were able to determine the cause of the problem.”
The Soldiers occupying Matun Hill had been dangerously low on water for nearly two weeks.
“We were down to bottled water to conduct personal hygiene with,” said Schildman.
After a few hours to assess the conditions of the plumbing and coming up with a plan of action, the C-SMART plumbers went straight to work.
“We found that since there was no water running through the pipes, all the pumps for life support systems had become vapor locked,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Stephen Fields, the team’s lead plumber, 859th Engineer Company (Vertical), Mississippi Army National Guard. “They’re not able to pull water, it’s just spinning air. No water is getting in there.”
With the minor plumbing issues fully addressed, it was up to the team to repair the major issue, which was the well.
“It is like sucking water through a 370-foot straw with holes all in it,” said Fields, a native of Tupelo, Miss. “All the gaskets were rotted, which would allow the water to come out the sides, but not to the top of the well.”
Once the gaskets were acquired through the help of some locals that worked on the COP, and several hours of hoisting and fitting the 370 feet of pipes back together, the repair was complete.
“We were able to seal everything back up and turn the water back on,” said Fields.
The issues that plagued the small COP were not limited to the plumbing.
“Three of the generators needed to be repaired,” said Air Force Senior Airman Jonathan Copeland, a prime power journeyman.
Each generator supplies power for up to 16 Soldiers.
“Part of the problem was they didn’t have a big enough generator to keep up the power during the hottest parts of the day,” said Copeland.
By repairing two of the three generators, Copeland was able to provide power to the camp’s living areas until a new, larger generator arrives.
At the end of a long day and temperatures reaching 100 degrees, the C-SMART team worked to ensure that everything that could be done had been done.
“The team … they are fantastic, it will be the first chance to take a shower in over a week,” said Schildman, “I am very grateful for them coming out here and using their technical skills to help us out.”
The importance of what the small team of craftsmen and journeymen means in the grand scheme of things is not lost on Villavicencio.
“This COP is here to help the Afghan National Army as well as provide a presence in the near-by village and surrounding areas,” said Villavicencio, “So by doing our mission we are providing all the [necessities] so the Soldiers can go out the next day and do their mission.”
“This sort of repair is something the Air Force does a lot of,” said Ring. The challenge for his joint brigade has been to expand their reach by implementing that same small repair team concept across JTF Triple Nickel’s Army and Navy units throughout Afghanistan.
“So we have spent a lot of time on just figuring out what it is… because the majority of our staff is Army, and this is something our Army engineers don’t do,” said Ring.
Figuring that out was the first step. The next step was to name it.
“We don’t have a word for what we (Army repair teams) do, so that is why we took part of the Air Force doctrine, which is ‘Small Maintenance and Repair Teams,’ and added a C for ‘Configurable’...because we are using Army, Air Force and Navy teams,” said Ring.
With nine teams strategically placed all over Afghanistan, and the differing skill sets of the teams, it makes sense to have a centrally coordinated system in place to deploy those teams where they are needed most.
Enter Senior Airman Heather Truitt, the JTF Triple Nickel’s C-SMART lead coordinator.
“I receive all work orders and identify them by priority, as well as ensure that it fits within the scope of work by the C-SMART definition,” Truitt said.
The definition of a C-SMART mission is anything that will impede the mission or be detrimental to life, health and safety, and that it is repair work that can be done within five days… no new construction, said Truitt.
“They get in and get out really quick, they are there to just make quick repairs to ensure a high quality of life is sustained,” she added.
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers from the Security Force Advise and Assist Team 11, along with the assistance of Soldiers from Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, met with Afghan National Army Soldiers at one of their combat ouposts outside of Shur Kalay, Afghanistan, on May 25.
The SFAATs are composed of 10 to 20 Soldiers performing advisory roles for Kandaks, or battalion sized units. They have been visiting combat outposts to advise and assist Kandaks for some time now, and with the drawing down of U.S. troops on the horizon, helping the Afghan National Security Forces get to a point of sustainability has never been more important.
“I can not stress enough the importance of the mission and the limited timeframe that we have to do it,” said Cpt. Colin LeBeau, intelligence officer for SFAAT 11, 162nd Infantry Brigade, attached to 2nd Bn, 506th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT “Currahee”, 101st Abn. Div. “We have to be successful now to get these guys to be independent and effective.”
Afghan Soldiers are feeling their independence on the battlefield as the number of International Security Assistance Force led missions decreases as ISAF moves from “shoulder-to-shoulder” assistance to “over-the-shoulder”.
“We are able to see the Afghan National Army fighting this war in their own way, not shoulder-to-shoulder but on their own,” said 1st Lt. James Kromhout, 1st platoon leader, Easy Co, 2nd Bn, 506th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. “We are able to get out and see the ANA in action all across Khowst Province. It’s pretty rewarding.”
Seeing the results of the efforts put forth through the advising of the ANA is rewarding as well.
“I get to hang out with the Afghan people on a daily basis and actually see the effect on people’s lives and on the mission,” said Sgt. Erik Choquette, SFAAT 11 medical advisor with the 162nd Infantry Brigade, attached to 2nd Bn, 506th Inf. Reg., 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. “One of the biggest parts of our job is developing inter-personal relationships with the Afghans.”
“On a personal level, I really enjoy working with these guys,” expressed LeBeau. “On a professional level, some guys are more proficient than others, some guys are more motivated than others, but that’s the same no matter where you go, you just have to learn to work through that.”
Working through those difficult situations is what makes an SFAAT successful.
“I’ve worked with the SFAATs since we got in country about a month ago and these guys really get the nuances of not just how an army is aggressive but how an army is successful,” Kromhout said. “The SFAAT mission is to work themselves out of a job, and they are doing a good job of it.”
KHOWST Province, Afghanistan – The 4th Brigade Combat Team “Currahees”, 101st Airborne Division, participated in a transfer of authority ceremony held at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, May 22.
The ceremony featured the casing of the 3rd BCT “Rakkasan”, 101st Abn. Div., colors and the uncasing of the Currahee colors. The ceremony signified the transfer of authority of the Khowst and Paktya Provinces to the Currahees.
“Transfers of authority are important, significant, events between military organizations,” said Col. R. J. Lilliridge, commander of the 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. “Today’s is more significant because this is the last TOA that will be conducted on FOB Salerno as the Currahees will be the last U.S. Army unit to serve here.”
No stranger to FOB Salerno, Col. Val C. Keaveny Jr. had his first experience with FOB Salerno as the battalion S-3 for 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, in 2003-04 and now returns as the brigade commander of the 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div.
“It’s truly an honor for me to return to Khowst and Paktya [Province],” said Keaveny. “I’m proud to personally see the great improvements made through the determined efforts of our Afghan brothers, the Afghan people and our Soldiers.”
The improvements in the Regional Command East area of operation were greatly helped along by the efforts of Task Force Rakkasan.
“Task Force Rakkasan, under the inspired leadership of Col. R.J. Lillibridge and Command Sgt. Maj. Crabtree have performed magnificently over the past nine months,” said Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commanding general of the 101st Abn. Div.
“I would like to welcome Task Force Currahee to Combined Joint Task Force 101 and Regional Command East,” said McConville. “The fighting season is in full swing and I do not need to remind you all that the authority assumed today brings with it great responsibility, the responsibility to continue to build upon the successes that the Afghan National Security Forces have achieved over the last year.”
The accomplishments of the ANSF over the past year comes from the consistent coalition training being done and from the Afghan forces continuing to take the lead.
“It is very clear that Afghan strength comes from Afghan unity,” Keaveny said. “I look forward to continuing to advance the mission by advising and assisting our Afghan National security forces as they secure their country.”
Helping the people of Afghanistan to get to where they can protect their country is what the Currahees have prepared for.
“I know that you have worked hard in preparing for this mission,” said McConville. “I’m confident you will live up to the legacy of the 101st Airborne Division and the Currahees that have gone before you, I’m confident you will help the Afghan National Security Forces win.”
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