Congress members visit troops in Afghanistan
August 5, 2010
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Five members of the House Armed Services Committee, on a whirlwind tour of Afghanistan, spent time with U.S. troops at remote Forward Operating Base Lightning, Paktya Province, Aug. 2.
The envoy included Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina, Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Rep. Mike Conway of Texas, Rep. Glenn Nye of Virginia, Rep. Mike Critz of Pennsylvania, Hans Klemm, the U.S. advisor to Afghanistan Attorney General Mohammad Ishtaq Alako, and several others.
During their visit, the dignitaries spent time with troops of the Lucedale, Miss.-based 287th Engineer Co., who have been combing the roads of southeastern Afghanistan for improvised explosive devices. They were particularly interested in making sure the Soldiers' equipment needs were met and made notes of deficiencies.
"Our mission is to learn as much as possible about the progress in Afghanistan," Bordallo said.
Taylor insisted on visiting FOB Lightning to see members of the Mississippi National Guard who are stationed there, said Josh Holly, the Republican spokesman for the U.S. Committee on Armed Services, who was among the dignitaries present. As committee members often only stop at the major population centers, this provided all on the excursion with a unique opportunity to speak directly with more remotely located troops on the ground, he added.
Taylor was particularly interested in ensuring the troops from his home state received the equipment they needed to do their mission safely and effectively.
"They are extremely brave individuals [and we] want to make sure their country puts all the right tools in their hands," Taylor said.
Taylor was present at Lucedale, Miss., for the 287th Engineer Co.'s farewell earlier this year, during which he promised to visit them in Afghanistan and treat them to a shrimp lunch. On Aug. 2, he made good on his promise and gave the troops at FOB Lightning a special shrimp meal at the dining facility.
"He keeps his word; he brought us shrimp just like he promised," U.S. Army Sgt. Stephen C. Stringfellow, a maintenance sergeant with the 287th Engineer Co. said of Taylor. Stringfellow hails from Lucedale, Miss.
Critz also had an opportunity to meet Pennsylvania National Guard troops of Operations Co., Headquarters, Headquarters Bn., 101st Airborne Div., who are responsible for keeping the base running, ensuring the troops have access to food, water, shelter and other amenities.
This stop was part of a two-day tour through Afghanistan that included an audience with the U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan, Earl Anthony "Tony" Wayne and Gen. David Patraeus, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
"It's important to come out here because we need to know what the troops on the ground need," Holly said.