HomeNewsCommentariesDisplay

Display

Deployment Journal: Motivated patriots key to Afghan future

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A Lithuanian soldier provides security outside the perimeter of an Afghan National Army base in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Dr. Abdullah Hawaid, Ghowr governor, and Coalition and Afghan generals met the first platoon of ANA to be permanently based in Chagcharan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A Lithuanian soldier provides security outside the perimeter of an Afghan National Army base in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Dr. Abdullah Hawaid, Ghowr governor, and Coalition and Afghan generals met the first platoon of ANA to be permanently based in Chagcharan. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A formation of Afghan National Police officers are inspected at an airfield near the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Roughly 70 ANP, with the help of the PRT, were the only presence to combat the insurgency in Ghowr prior to Jan. 31, when the first platoon of Afghan National Army soldiers arrived to assume the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A formation of Afghan National Police officers are inspected at an airfield near the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Roughly 70 ANP, with the help of the PRT, were the only presence to combat the insurgency in Ghowr prior to Jan. 31, when the first platoon of Afghan National Army soldiers arrived to assume the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A coalition and Afghan National Army convoy move from the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team to an ANA base in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Coalition and Afghan generals met with Dr. Abdullah Hawaid, Ghowr governor, and discussed future operations in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- A coalition and Afghan National Army convoy move from the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team to an ANA base in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. Coalition and Afghan generals met with Dr. Abdullah Hawaid, Ghowr governor, and discussed future operations in the area. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Dauransha Shazada, ANA 207th Corps commander, addresses the first platoon of ANA to be permanently based in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. General Shazada told the soldiers that he was proud of them and at the moment this photo was taken, was telling a soldier that it will be him, and those like him, who shape Afghanistan?s future. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan -- Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Dauransha Shazada, ANA 207th Corps commander, addresses the first platoon of ANA to be permanently based in Chagcharan District, Ghowr Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 31, 2011. General Shazada told the soldiers that he was proud of them and at the moment this photo was taken, was telling a soldier that it will be him, and those like him, who shape Afghanistan?s future. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

HERAT, Afghanistan (Feb. 1, 2011) -- Last week ended badly for me as I twisted my ankle and was put on limited duty, which restricts me from running or jumping for two weeks.

As I tended to the office, my two coworkers, Mass Communication Specialists 1st Class John Pearl and Stephen Hickok, headed down to a mission in Shindand District.

I saw them off to their convoy site and grudgingly remained behind.

For me, there's nothing more frustrating than having my wingmen out and me not there to help watch their backs.

I suppose some servicemembers would prefer to stay behind while their comrades went off outside the wire to take care of business.

Of course, others are definitely needed inside base.

There are many fine servicemembers from every allied country and branch of service whom only work inside the perimeter. In fact, many people spend a whole deployment without ever leaving a base perimeter.

They are just as vital to the struggle here as the trigger pullers.

Even though I realize that, as a photojournalist on a Media Combat Team, the majority of stories unfold while I'm face to face with Afghans in their villages, on their streets and in their homes. The best service I can give while here is to tell the tales of Afghan lives first hand.

Yesterday, like all mornings, I awoke to the annoying sound of my mobile phone alarm and was a bit down-spirited. Then I began to plan my day, and was excited to come to work and track down some new avenues to further market our stories.

As I stepped into my building at around 6 a.m., my boss, Italian Army Maj. Igor Piani, told me that he had a mission for me, and it included flying from one base to another, then convoying out to another location, so my injury wouldn't be an issue.

Unlike my comrades down in Shindand, the chances of me having to go on patrol by foot were miniscule.

I accompanied the Regional Command-West commander and a handful of Afghan generals out to meet the new governor of Ghowr Province at the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghowr.

After meeting him and talking about some of his strategies, which have already proven successful, we convoyed out to an Afghan National Army base in Chagcharan District to meet the first ANA platoon in the area.

They were high on life and really excited about tackling some pressing insurgent issues in Ghowr. For me, it's always great to see a group of Afghans ready to take their future into their own hands and stand their ground against insurgents and drug traffickers.

There are roughly 10 insurgent groups operating in Ghowr, said Dr. Abdullah Hawaid, provincial governor, citing that Ghowr is a bridge between Helmand Province and the North.

"Insurgents and drug traffickers traveling between the North and Helmand are our biggest problem," said the governor. "We need to put our main emphasis on closing down insurgent routes through Ghowr, particularly in the Pasabad District."

This is the challenge the new platoon of ANA faced, and they were really excited to be on the front line of the fight.

And here I've been, moaning all week about a twisted ankle.

"Throw a brace on it and put me in the lineup with these ANA," I thought to myself - their motivation was that majestic.

Governor Hawaid categorized insurgents into two groups: one that has ties to Al-Qaeda and other terror networks, and the other that are opportunists, whose loyalty is to money and supporting the Taliban.

The first group needs to lay down arms immediately, that's objective number one, said the governor, who had a complex plan for group two.

"I want to disarm the second group with regards to machine guns and heavy weapons, but make them register small arms and allow them to keep those to protect their villages and families," he said. "Every year they will have to purchase a license to keep their firearms."

Once security expands and they begin to feel safe, Governor Hawaid said they'll more than likely decide it isn't worth paying for a license, and also lay down their arms. At that point, his administration would shift their focus to reconstruction and development.

Ghowr's National Dictorate of Security chief, Brig. Gen. Mirzashaw Baynahm, said because of Governor Hawaid's tactics and his ties to the central government in Kabul, the situation is improving rapidly across Ghowr.

"The enemy is scared and on the run," said General Baynahm. "I'm very optimistic that the insurgents who have not joined the reintegration process will soon, or operations will be conducted and they'll be eliminated."

We convoyed back to the PRT and later flew home.

Today I remained in the office, writing a news story related to the improvements in Ghowr, and was perfectly content to be sitting at my desk for an entire 14-hour work day.

After all, yesterday I got to do what I love and do best, I got to get out and be face-to-face with Afghans who really care for their country.

This land once had more patriots than insurgents ... if the motivation I saw with that first platoon of ANA to arrive in Ghowr continues to manifest itself in the young men across this land, then perhaps the day will come when the coalition can go home, and the evil fire of the insurgency that continues to flare up around this land will be permanently extinguished by the hands of its own people - the Afghan patriots.