Utah ETT Makes a Big Difference

From the Get-go in Afghanistan

 

By Capt. Bruce Roberts

 

Published May 29, 2008

 

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Sgt. 1st Class Mark Boyer, left, and Capt. Bruce Roberts, second from right,  share chai tea with their Interpreter, and Capt. Faiz Mohammed, right.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Bruce Roberts

Sgt. 1st Class Mark Boyer, left, and Capt. Bruce Roberts, second from right,  share chai tea with their Interpreter and Capt. Faiz Mohammed, right.

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan — The Utah National Guard’s Embedded Training Team (ETT) hit the ground running in April of this year.

After short stops in Kabul in order to reach their duty destination near Mazar-e-sharif, Afghanistan, the team had about a week to prepare for its first mission with its Afghan counterparts.

Members of the 16-man team were divided among three separate assignments: the police mission, logistical-support mission and the army-training mission. Eight members of the team were lucky enough to be assigned to 1st Brigade 4th Kandak (Battalion), 209th Corps, which rolled out on Operation Karez II in early May.

Without much time to work or train with the 4th Kandak, the team had to build rapport and establish a working relationship for the mission. With the operational area being many hours away from the base camp, the team saw much of northern Afghanistan along the way.

Sgt. 1st Class Boyer, left, teaches the finer points of the RPG-7 trigger mechanism to an Afghani recon company's noncommissioned officers.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Bruce Roberts

Sgt. 1st Class Boyer, left, teaches the finer points of the RPG-7 trigger mechanism to an Afghani recon company's noncommissioned officers.

As space on the FOB was limited, a local national had offered his small compound adjacent to the FOB for the 4th Kandak Recon Company and the ETT to stay in. As hospitality is a very important tenet in Afghan culture, the owner asked nothing in return. In a gesture of goodwill, ETT Utah decided to fix the door to his compound as a way of thanking the man and spent part of one day scrounging materials and building a new door.

“We could use the security and the man needed a new door. We had the time and it was just a way for us to help his family,” said the ETT’s Sgt. 1st Class Brian Berry.

Soldiers had a good time entertaining the children and practicing their Dari while staying in the FOB compound. They were also able to compensate the man and definitely won the heart of at least one Afghan.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Berry, left, Maj. Tyler Smith, center, and Master Sgt. Kent McClure improvise a new compound door.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Bruce Roberts

Sgt. 1st Class Brian Berry, left, Maj. Tyler Smith, center, and

Master Sgt. Kent McClure improvise a new compound door.

As they awaited the start of the mission the ETT also took time to bond with their counterparts sharing knowledge, learning about each other, mentoring some of their young Soldiers, and sharing traditional foods such as kabob and chai tea.

“During the Vietnam era, the Special Forces was known for mentoring the montagnards, and in Central America it was the Salvadoreans. Now I can appreciate those past mentors as I sit around the campfire building a common bond with their NCO (noncommissioned officer) corps and mentoring the Afghans in such area as weapons, tactics and leadership,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Boyer when asked about the mentor role of the ETT.

Operation Karez II was a great learning experience for the Utah ETT, and it gave them the chance to build lasting friendships with their Afghan counterparts.

During the operation the Team provided humanitarian assistance to many small villages, which included school supplies, soccer balls and warm clothing.

Capt. Faiz Mohammed, left, and his American mentor, Capt. Bruce Roberts, center, talk to villagers at a checkpoint near Ghormach.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Bruce Roberts

Capt. Faiz Mohammed, left, and his American mentor, Capt. Bruce Roberts, center, talk to villagers at a checkpoint near Ghormach.

The operation was also meant to foster the security necessary for lasting effects such as wells and water-diversion projects to be started at various towns with those particular needs.This required patrolling through some towns that traditionally had a strong insurgent presence and holding key-leader engagements to negotiate with village elders.

“We made sure that we were willing to share the risks with them and lead from the front, [working] side by side with their leaders at every opportunity,” said Boyer.

No friendly forces were injured during the operation and insurgents in the area definitely saw strength of the new Afghan National Army and its Coalition partners.

During the three-week operation the team engaged with the local population in various ways: arranging humanitarian assistance, conducting presence patrols, providing security for local efforts, conducting key-leader engagements and pushing insurgents out of civilian areas.

While staging at a forward operating base (FOB) for several days the team filled some down time with some humanitarian service.

Military members, from left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Berry, Master Sgt. Kent McClure, Capt. Faiz Mohammed, Maj. Tyler Smith and Staff Sgt. Robert Abbe pose with the proud new owner of a rebuilt door and his friends.

Photo courtesy of Capt. Bruce Roberts

Military members, from left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Berry, Master Sgt. Kent McClure, Capt. Faiz Mohammed,

Maj. Tyler Smith and Staff Sgt. Robert Abbe pose with the proud new owner of a rebuilt door and his friends.