Camp Blackhorse Soldiers Help

Build Afghanistan's Future

 

By MC1 Shawn Graham

Combined Security Transition CommandAfghanistan

 

Published August 20, 2008

 

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Soldiers and Marines, along with Afghan National Army soldiers assigned to Camp Blackhorse, detonate explosives near an enemy fighting position during combat operations near the Naghlu Reservoir in Kapicia Province.

Photo by MC1 Shawn Graham

Soldiers and Marines, along with Afghan National Army soldiers assigned to Camp Blackhorse, detonate explosives near an enemy fighting position during combat operations near the Naghlu Reservoir in Kapicia Province.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Across Afghanistan, wherever U.S. forces are deployed, whether conducting combat operations alongside Coalition forces in the east and south or security and stability operations in the west and north, they do so from forward operating bases.

U.S. Army Capt. Bruce Roberts’ team of senior noncommissioned officers from Camp Blackhorse, trains and mentors the Afghan National Army’s 4th  Kandak, 2nd Brigade, in the construction of  an unnamed FOB , located near the Naghlu Reservoir in lower Kapisa Province.

“Our job is to train and advise the Afghan National Army in all aspects of FOB building,” explained Roberts, who is the rotational Embedded Training Team officer in charge. “Our job is to train the leaders and NCOs so that they understand how to build and defend forward operating bases themselves.”

“My team has truly been embedded with the ANA,” Roberts said. “For nearly two months, we’ve lived on a combat outpost with a platoon of their soldiers. The ETTs were the only U.S. presence on our makeshift compound.”

Afghan National Army soldiers assigned to 4th  Kandak, 3rd  Brigade, place barriers during construction of a new expeditionary forward operating base.  The base will be built and maintained by the ANA.

Photo by MC1 Shawn Graham

Afghan National Army soldiers assigned to 4th  Kandak, 3rd  Brigade, place barriers during construction of a new expeditionary forward operating base.  The base will be built and maintained by the ANA.

The team members are all from the Utah National Guard. In civilian life they are teachers, self-employed business owners and full-time students.

The 4th Kandak is a combat engineer unit, with three companies, a weapons company and a headquarters company. An additional line company is located at the site that is being constructed.

“Generally, classes in the morning are taught by the ETT, and classes in the afternoon are taught by the ANA,” said Army Master Sgt. Charles Durrant.  “We typically meet with the kandak commander after formation to discuss any issues or problems. Throughout the day, the trainers are meeting and working with their companies.”

“But one thing to remember,” Durrant added, “no day is a typical day with the ANA.  It can change dramatically from day to day.”

Afghan National Army soldiers, assigned to Afghan National Army’s 4th Kandak, 3rd  Brigade, mesh portions of a barrier together during construction of a new expeditionary forward operating base. The new base will be totally erected and maintained by the ANA.

Photo by MC1 Shawn Graham

Afghan National Army soldiers, assigned to Afghan National Army’s 

4th Kandak, 3rd  Brigade, mesh portions of a barrier together during construction of a new expeditionary forward operating base.  The

new base will be totally erected and maintained by the ANA.

Afghan soldiers operate large excavators and bulldozers, flattening the terrain, making it suitable for future buildings and placing large sand-filled barriers.  Operating on the top of a plateau, the equipment operators are always mindful that there is no room for error.  Every time machinery moves, it is only several yards from a 1,000-foot drop.

“The ANA have faced all the challenges in stride,” said Army Master Sgt. Kent McClure, the project’s senior noncommissioned officer in charge.  “This FOB will help bring stability to the entire region.  We’ve merely shown them the way; they are the ones doing the work.”

Kandak soldiers are also building roads in the area and conducting leader engagements, where they meet with local elders and chiefs of police to discuss security and development projects. They also assist Coalition troops in locating and destroying established enemy fighting positions.

“Every mission that we go on is augmented by the ANA,” Roberts said. “This allows the citizens of Afghanistan to see members of their army working professionally with coalition forces. It contributes to a sense of overwhelming pride in their government, and they see their army progressing and succeeding in stamping out the Taliban.”

Their progress was evident July 26, when Afghan soldiers from the 4th Kandak accompanied the combat engineer unit on a combat mission that destroyed five enemy fighting positions.  The ANA soldiers assisted in the preparation and detonation phases of the operation.     


“Many of the soldiers in 4th Kandak learn combat skills fast.  Training them and letting them handle explosives, and teaching them to respect it, will help strengthen their ability and national perception,” Durrant said.

“We are getting the ANA to a point where they can be self-sufficient,” Roberts said. “We pass all our experience and knowledge on to them. They do for themselves, and it is working.”

Soldiers of the Utah National Guard's embedded training team stop to rest and enjoy an Afghani sunset at Naghlu Reservoir.

Photo by MC1 Shawn Graham

Soldiers of the Utah National Guard's embedded training team

stop to rest and enjoy an Afghani sunset at Naghlu Reservoir.

Capt. Bruce Roberts, Utah National Guard Embedded Training Team,  surveys the view from a hilltop in Kapicia Province.

Photo by MC1 Shawn Graham

Capt. Bruce Roberts, Utah National Guard Embedded Training

Team,  surveys the view from a hilltop in Kapicia Province.