FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan (Jan. 11, 2012) -- The 2011 fighting season is over in Afghanistan, and U.S. forces are adjusting their mission, all the way down to platoon level operations, to reflect the resulting change in focus. While insurgents are still active, contact is less frequent and International Security Assistance Forces and Afghan National Security Forces, known as the ANSF, are taking advantage of the lull in combat operations to spend more time on building good relations with the people of Afghanistan.

2nd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, recently participated in just such a patrol, led by their Afghan partners near Combat Outpost Sperwan Ghar, in Southern Kandahar.

"The purpose was basically to get to know the people in the village of Shengazi," said 2nd Lt. Skyler Petitt, platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, who led the patrol. "We had never been there before. We didn't even know what the village was called."

On the morning of Jan. 3 the platoon, along with their Afghan National, or ANA, Army partners, marched out of Sperwan Ghar equipped with rifles, mine sweepers, and a Military Working Dog.

But they were also carrying radios to be passed out to heads of households that receive the Afghan government's official radio broadcasts, as well as newsletters with the same information to be given to literate members of the family.

"We're also letting them know about things we're doing," said Petitt, "such as starting a school south of Sperwan Ghar that we need the support and desire of the villagers to get started."

While U.S. and Afghan Soldiers took up security positions throughout the village, Petitt and his Afghan counterpart spoke with a shopkeeper and two village elders.

Counternarcotics have become a focus for ANSF operations in the area and during the recent patrol the ANA found and destroyed more than 2,000 lbs of marijuana.

Growing and using marijuana is both against Afghan law and Islam. For the 1st time since 2002, the Afghan government is putting emphasis on drug eradication.

"We're looking forward to next year," said Petitt. "The Taliban won't have the income that marijuana brings them to use against us and the ANA."

U.S. and Afghan forces working together to create a secure and stable Afghanistan in 2014.