KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - There are three components that encompass the U.S. Army; Active Duty, Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard. Each component is different from the other in regards to training, deployments and overall daily routine.
There are situations in which combining their efforts is important to accomplishing the overall Army mission.
One mission that utilizes the combined experience and knowledge of active duty and National Guard Soldiers is training and advising Afghan forces and assisting with counter terrorism operations as part of Train, Advise, and Assist Command-South.
TAAC-South is comprised of Soldiers from the 40th Infantry Division, California National Guard, and the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Carson, Colorado.
Brig. Gen. John Lathrop, commanding general for TAAC-South and assigned to the 40th Inf. Div., and Command Sgt. Maj. Anton Hillig, senior enlisted leader for TAAC-South and assigned to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, lead the joint Army component command.
"Our team at TAAC-South is built from Soldiers with unique and diverse backgrounds," said Lathrop. "When brought together, these teams of National Guard and active-duty Soldiers allow us to provide strength and quality to our advising efforts."
Soldiers from the two components work together within the command in sections like the Military Advisory Team, Police Advisory Team and the Government Advisory Team.
"(In) the National Guard we have police officers and teachers who are experts in their fields and we have active duty Soldiers who, through multiple deployments, have experience with the environment in Afghanistan," said Lathrop. "By integrating these groups we have created teams who understand Afghanistan and have the capability of providing real world training and advice."
One National Guard Soldier who used his civilian experience as part of the MAT and PAT section was Maj. David B. Weiss, advisor for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police border patrol force and a member of the 40th Inf. Div.
"I am an infantry officer in the guard but on the civilian side I am a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives," said Weiss. "My experience as a former agent for the border patrol I think helped me understand both sides of the house, as an agent and a military member."
Weiss, who served as a border patrol agent for seven years prior to working with ATF, said his biggest goal as an advisor was to integrate the two organizations, the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces with each other.
"There is a large knowledge gap between the organizations, and with the ability to advise both sides I was able to get the (ANP) on board and help with the planning operations process that the (ANDSF) was doing," he said.
Weiss said having active-duty Soldiers by his side was a great asset especially during advisory missions that involved topics like operations, planning and military equipment.
"During my previous deployment I worked in the engineer cell at (Forward Operating Base) Shank as the garrison command for that area," said Capt. Brandon Briscoe, plans and operations advisor for MAT in TAAC-South and a member of the 2IBCT. "On a daily basis I engaged with civilian Afghan workers, so on day one of advising here I was already comfortable working with my Afghan counterparts."
Briscoe said he believes his previous exposure to the Afghan populace helped him be a better advisor.
"Understanding how to interact with our counterparts culturally and texturally makes for a better process to shaping the outcome you want in your advisory mission," he said. "Being able to anticipate how things might shape out in a situation, because of experience in previous deployments, helps us shape the best timeline that fits the Afghan forces to get the best outcome."
However, Briscoe said advisors like Weiss have the strength of being able to think outside the box because of their civilian professions.
"A purely military solution is not always what we need," said Weiss. "The resources the Afghan police have and the ones the (ANSDF) have are very different. For me to be able to impart some of the tricks I used as a border patrol agent to maximize their efforts was rewarding."
Joining two Army components in one command is beneficial to our Afghan allies in order to provide the best overall advisory teams to the Afghan forces, added Weiss.
"I think it also helps us realize we are not as different as we think we are," he said. "We are always stronger together and mixing the knowledge and experience of both organizations I think will bring out the best outcomes."