PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Representatives from across the Afghan National Security Forces attended an update brief at the Operations Coordination Center – Regional East at Forward Operating Base Thunder May 13.
The briefing was held to discuss security plans for the upcoming Afghan voter registration campaign scheduled for the end of this month.
Brig. Gen. Daoud Andrabi, director, OCC-R East, briefed Maj. Gen. James McConville, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force-101, Regional Command East, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) on their preparations.
The OCC-R consists of personnel from the Afghan National Army, Afghan Uniform Police, Afgan Border Police, National Directorate of Security and Afghan National Civil Order Police working together for a common purpose - to bring security, stability and confidence in their government to the people of Afghanistan.
“OCC-R is a center, on a regional level, where all the major operations, coordination and synchronization takes place, “said Lt. Col. Ronald Campbell, advisor, OCC-R East.
Voter registration begins May 26, and provisional election chiefs continue to identify equipment shortages and any gaps in their plan.
Joint planning and leveraging, along with integration and synchronization of resources, is the main mission of the OCC-R.
The OCC-R is the place where ANSF departments can come together, said Campbell, a native of Atlanta, Ga.
“If we can’t work together, we cannot achieve a common goal and the common goal is that RC-East is secure, has credible elections, peace on the borders and can facilitate the transfer of the combat outposts and forward operating bases,” he said.
McConville closed the brief by saying that the future of Afghanistan is bright and that U.S. Coalition Forces will be here to advise and assist the ANA over the coming months, emphasizing three main points - the enemy will be defeated this summer, Afghanistan can expect to have a good voter registration, and next spring, Afghanistan will have a great election.
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team “Highlanders”, 1st Armored Division, participated in a Casing of the Colors ceremony at Forward Operating Base Lightning, April 21.
The ceremony is a symbolic gesture as the brigade prepares to redeploy home after a nine-month deployment advising the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps.
“I could not be more proud of our team,” said U.S. Army Col. Terry Cook, brigade commander. “The 203rd Corps is really setting the standard and providing an opportunity for the people here to have a better life.”
The Soldiers from Higlander Brigade have worked shoulder to shoulder with their Afghan counterparts, advising at all levels of the 203rd Corps’ command.
“We can see that we have really made an impact,” said Sgt. 1st Class Sheila White, a basing and contracting adviser,1st BCT, 4th Armd. Div. “We’ve definitely made some changes that will positively affect the region.”
The 203rd Corps is responsible for all ANA assets and operations in seven of the country’s eastern provinces.
Afghanistan will survive as a nation because of the work we’ve done here with the 203rd Corps, said Cook during the ceremony.
“If they can continue to stand strong, this country’s going to make it,” he said.
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Most spring days, Forward Operating Base Thunder lives up to its namesake as thunderstorms boom across the Gardez Valley.
A different type of explosion, however, echoed throughout the base April 13, as Afghan National Army soldiers validated their skills on the 60 mm mortar range.
These ANA soldiers, military tactics trainers from the 203rd “Thunder” Corps, will now have an additional skill to teach as Coalition Forces hand-off mortar training to the Afghan Army.
“To have this kind of asset is very important,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Steven Nix, an indirect fire infantryman with 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. “When we leave, this will help them to be able to successfully suppress the enemy.”
The ANA instructors are now tasked with teaching Afghan soldiers throughout the region how to properly use and maintain the 60 mm mortar system.
“As long as they continue to do as well as they did today, I have no doubt that these guys will be able to teach others successfully,” said Nix, a native of De Queen, Ark.
The hand-off of training from Coalition Forces to ANA trainers comes as International Security Assistance Forces transition the nation’s security to the Afghan National Security Forces.
With the help of Coalition advisers, the ANA has now taken full control of mortar training, said ANA Col. Muhammad Asif Saboori, training officer for the 203rd.
“Today is a great day for the ANA,” said Saboori.
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- While many of the stories that make headlines today concerning the conflict in Afghanistan focus on the Afghan National Security Forces taking the lead in the fight against insurgent forces for the future of the nation, a small group of Afghan National Army Soldiers are taking the lead on a different and equally important front: telling their own story to the Afghan people and the world.
In a tiny, crowded and cluttered office on Forward Operating Base Thunder, ANA Sgt. 1st Class Abdul Karim is sorting through photos on a laptop.
Karim, a nine-year veteran of the ANA and a camera team noncommissioned officer with 203rd “Thunder” Corps Public Affairs Office explains, “We want the people of Afghanistan to hear what we are doing, it is important that we send out the message to every part of the country.”
The 203rd Corps public affairs NCOs are being advised by Soldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to better understand the process of editing photos and video for release to local media outlets as a means of telling the ANAs story.
Spc. Ryan Scott, a public affairs specialist, 129th MPAD , is one of two public affairs Soldiers advising the ANA public affairs NCOs.
“Our mission is to ensure the 203rd Corps PAOs are able to get their message out through video, photographs and their story telling skills,” said Scott, a native of Gilroy, Calif.
The Guardsmen are helping the 203rd Corps PAO get their message out in different ways.
“We are not here to tell them how we do things, but show them how to use the tools they do have to get the job done,” said Sgt. Jacqueline Fitzgerald, a broadcast NCO, 129th MPAD.
With a 5-year-old digital camera and a pair of video cameras the ANA public affairs NCOs submit their products to a local civilian media center for release to the public.
“The information that they take to the media center now is all raw or unedited video and photos,” said Scott. “Our goal is to show them how to put that information into packages so they can put their voice in it.”
To Karim and others in the PAO shop, having the Afghan people hear their voice is what is important.
“In the past, it has been the U.S. Army and other PAOs telling the Afghan Army’s story,” said Fitzgerald, a native of Hermosa, S.D., ”Now, we’re teaching them how to tell their story. I think its better coming from your neighbor instead of an outsider.”
In addition to advising the ANA NCOs on how to better prepare their own products, the Guardsmen are also ensuring the ANA soldiers are able to pass along their knowledge to their counterparts across Afghanistan.
With International Security Assistance Forces scaling back operations to meet the 2014 withdrawal deadline, the ANA public affairs soldiers are stepping into the void.
“Everyday we are getting better,” said Shir “GQ” Muhammed, “it is important to show the Afghan people that we are doing it right.”
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Soldiers at Forward Operating Base Lightning took a well deserved break for a night of entertainment hosted by the FOB’s own resident clown, March 31.
U.S. Army Maj. Bruce Townley, a native of Chamois, Mo., and an adviser to the Afghan National Army 203rd Corps’ Command, Control, Communications, and Computers/Cypher office, kept his audience laughing with magic tricks, an intricate juggling act and a few antics only a professionally-trained clown could pull off.
“This was a great way to unwind and spend some quality time with friends and co-workers on this Easter Sunday,” said Col. Terry Cook, commander, 4th Battalion, 1st Armored Division.
Performing for a nearly-packed house in a makeshift theatre at the FOB’s dining facility, Townley was in his element.
“Other larger bases and FOB’s get the United Service Organizations shows, so I’m just glad that I had the skillset to do this show,” Townley said. “It’s good to be able to take Soldiers who normally have a busy, task-oriented day and give them a little bit of a break and a chance to laugh.”
Townley, an alumnus of the acclaimed Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, has been performing for military audiences since his enlisted days in the Navy.
“Maj. Townley is a very talented officer and an equally talented performer,” said Brig. Gen. Clarence K. Chinn, deputy commanding general of Afghan Development South, Combined Joint Task Force-101, Regional Command-East, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
Chinn became an unsuspecting participant in one of Townley’s magic tricks, finding an audience-chosen king of hearts across the room from the stage.
“Since I’m on his staff, he had actually seen me do some magic during a few of our briefings,” said Townley. “Our briefings can get quite long and by the time we get to the G6 it can feel like the seventh inning stretch, so sometimes I’ll do a magic trick to kick-off my brief.”
The show was a well-deserved break for the Soldiers on FOB Lightning, who put in long hours every day advising the Afghan National Security Forces in order to ensure a smooth transition as International Security Assistance Forces transfer security and governance to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
The RC-East Public Affairs team assists with the free and open reporting by the media through engagement with international, regional and local media in a planned, timely and accurate manner. Media opportunities, embeds, and interviews will be conducted wherever appropriate within the rules of operational security.
All queries should be addressed through the RC-EAST PAO contact information above.