Afghan engineer soldiers build patrol base, relationships
November 24, 2010
URUZGAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The sun makes a subtle appearance over the hillside as the soldiers report to the build site of a new Afghan National Army (ANA) patrol base. The temperatures are getting increasingly colder, a fact not lost on the men as they huddle around in small groups talking about the plan for the day.
More than half the crew are ANA engineer soldiers from the 4th Combat Support Kandak, 4th Brigade, a fact that is indicative of how far the Afghan Security Forces have progressed in the Uruzgan Province. They are joined by Australian soldiers from Mentoring Task Force 2, advisors who live and train with the ANA daily.
The ANA patrol base is an integral facet of a larger Afghan-led and Coalition-partnered operation to expand into areas of Uruzgan previously controlled by the insurgency. To the soldiers on ground, Afghan and Coalition, the protection and benefit of the Afghan people is at the heart of the operation.
"This area was famous for being dangerous, but now we've come here with the ANA and the Australians to change the security for the future of these people," said Sgt. Rahmatullah, Engineer Co., 4th CS Kandak, 4th Brigade. "The local people are happy we are here. They've asked us to build this patrol base and that's why we have come."
Rahmatullah oversees the work of the Afghan soldiers on the build site. Constantly in-motion, he tirelessly instructs them on how to swing a hammer properly or where to transfer supplies. Rahmatullah said that some of his soldiers are more experienced than others and that this build project is an important training tool and benchmark.
Within the first three days, the ANA and Australians have erected a wall and begun the construction of a guard tower. The soldiers work at a pace almost faster than their supplies arrive to the field.
"The ANA engineers are very similar to Australian engineers, when it comes time to work - they work hard," said Capt. Jason Mildone, 2nd in command, Engineer Squadron, MTF-2. The Australian mentors work with the ANA to advance their basic carpentry skills and the utilization of plan equipment, such as digging and lifting machinery.
Once complete, the patrol base will be home to more than 90 ANA soldiers and a small contingent of Australian mentors. Mildone said that the ANA patrol base will "clamp down on the freedom of action of the insurgency throughout the Kakarak and Northern Korma area."
With the addition of the ANA security, the government of Afghanistan will be able to provide more projects to help the local civilians.
U.S. Army Col. Jim Creighton, Combined Team Uruzgan Commander, visited the site to meet with the ANA and Australian soldiers Nov. 13. Still early in the construction phase, the ANA patrol base has garnered favorable attention from the local civilians.
"The neighborhood is thrilled to have the ANA around here," said Creighton. "They are thrilled to have the security coming in. In fact, just today they were bringing them naan, bread from the village. The local mullah (an Afghan religious leader) has already been up here."
Creighton said that the soldiers weren't only building a patrol base but lasting relationships. Several weapon caches and IEDs found during the operation came as a direct result of local civilian tips.
Creighton also gave credit to the Afghan National Police for taking on a larger security role in Uruzgan.
"What this represents is the ANP tripling the amount of area that they control, which allows the ANA to move out further. It's huge in the way we see the expansion of the ANP and the expansion of the ANA into the valleys," said Creighton.
Now that the ANA have arrived, their engineers are laying the foundation for a more secure and prosperous Afghan future. Rahmatullah predicts the patrol base will have a big impact on military and civilian partnership.
"If the people help us, we will be become strong," Rahmatullah said.