By 1st Lt. Veronica AguilaJanuary 16, 2013
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - Soldiers with the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team officially transferred responsibility for operations at the Joint Border Coordination Center to the 208th Army Liaison Team at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, Jan. 7.
Throughout their nine-month tour under the command of Col. John Burke, director of the JBCC, the team was charged with facilitating cross-border coordination and communication, intelligence sharing and promoting complementary operations between the International Security Assistance Force, Afghan National Security Forces and Pakistan military.
Guest speaker U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, the Regional Command-South commander, commented on the accomplishments of the outgoing 18-soldier team from New York Army National Guard's 27th IBCT and the critical and unique JBCC mission.
"With all the obstacles and challenges presented to this JBCC team, there were numerous opportunities taken advantage of and I know Col. Burke and his team passed along many hard-earned lessons to the new team," Abrams said. "Perhaps the most important of all is the cohesion built on trust, mutual respect, transparency, and improving collaborations with our ANSF and PAKMIL representatives in the border security zone."
One of only two JBCCs in Afghanistan, the soldiers worked to build better cooperation and trust amongst the three partnered forces in Regional Command-South and Regional Command-Southwest's border security zone, which extends approximately 1,300 kilometers from Nimruz Province to the southern border of Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan.
Their goal, to achieve better security for the population of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is accomplished through positive communication with their partners, by countering cross-border illicit activities, de-conflicting near-border operations and enhancing AFPAK border relations.
"To the 27th team I say, 'Well done'. I congratulate you on an outstanding deployment in support of such a critical strategic base," Abrams said.
According to the JBCC leadership, the biggest strides were made through communication with their partners and an understanding and awareness of their partners' culture and differences.
"It is important to remember that our organization has three sovereign countries that all have their own agendas. The question is, how do you find out where those agendas are aligned and work on improving those areas," said U.S. Army Capt. Nathan Iglesias, chief intelligence officer, JBCC.
Some of the JBCC team's noteworthy successes were the reestablishment of the border flag meetings and the creation of tactical level coordination and intelligence sharing meetings.
"These are the necessary ingredients for trust and to move forward. I believe the organization is moving in the direction we want," Iglesias said.
Stepping outside of their mission, the team used their additional skills as National Guard soldiers to bring new education and readiness resources to soldiers at Forward Operating Base Spin Boldak. In addition, some of their volunteer efforts included training local Afghan teachers on new techniques to improve their classroom instruction, and assisting with school supply drives.
"It absolutely made sense to build relationships [and] demonstrate to the Afghans liaison officers we work with that our passion for the Afghan people is more than just lip service," said Iglesias about the volunteer work.
Soldiers also taught Afghan language instruction classes that encouraged interaction among soldiers and the ANSF and PAKMIL representatives, which resulted in spontaneous cultural sharing and a stronger partnership.
The partnership was a strength noted by Abrams during the ceremony.
"The strength of the JBCC is found within the unity of all three parties," Abrams said. "Through the strength of our partnership and continued growth, we will prevail."
Abrams recognized the challenge for the incoming 208th Army Liaison Team to continue building the trust and cooperation amongst all the stakeholders of the border security zone.
The incoming 208th ALT, headquartered out of Fort Carson, Colo., is commanded by Col. Richard M. Alonso Holtorf, Army liaison chief.
Ceremony attendees included representatives from ISAF, the Pakistan military, and the Afghan Border Police.