Sept. 4, 2009

Brigade-level Afghan mentor team returns to Virginia

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT EUSTIS, Va. — A team of Virginia National Guard Soldiers responsible for training and mentoring Afghanistan police and military forces returned to Virginia and conducted a welcome home ceremony Sept. 2 at Fort Eustis. The team of 14 Soldiers served as brigade-level mentors for the Regional Police Advisory Command – South and the Regional Corps Advisory Command – South since Dec. 24, 2008.

  Brigade ETT return

Maj. Mike Booker of Richmond gets a warm welcome home Aug. 28 at the Mullins Readiness Center in Sandston. Booker was a member of a team of Virginia Guard Soldiers who served as mentors and trainers for Afghan military and police forces since Dec. 24, 2008 and returned to Virginia Aug. 28. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“These Virginia Guard Soldiers provided command and control, as well as invaluable mentoring and training to the Afghan army and police in the most volatile section of Southern Afghanistan, leaving a lasting impact on the Afghan National Security Forces for years to come,” said Col. Mike Harris, the officer in charge of the team. Harris served as the commander for all police mentors in Southern Afghanistan.

Six of the Soldiers are from the Richmond area, three are from the Williamsburg area, two are from Northern Virginia and one Soldier each is from the Danville, Lynchburg and Hampton Roads area.

Harris said the Soldiers quickly established a strong mentoring presence and began successful  operations with the Afghan National Police immediately. Team members served in varying positions of responsibility, ranging from the RPAC-S command group, to team leaders in the field to individual team members. 

“Over the first five months of the year, the ANP worked alongside their U.S. mentors and made significant gains against the insurgency and were able to neturalize hundreds of insurgents and captured thousands of collective tons of weapons, drugs, vehicles and other items potentially used against United States, Coalition and Afghan forces,” said Maj. Mike Booker, the executive officer for the team. 

“Our teams established strong presences in the local villages and distributed thousands of pounds of humanitarian assistance in the form of food, clothes, toys, and school supplies for children and farming equipment,” Booker said. 

  Brigade ETT return

Capt. Jacob Goodine of Richmond is awarded the Combat Action Badge by Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable Aug. 28 at the Mullins Readiness Center in Sandston. Goodine was a member of a team of Virginia Guard Soldiers who served as mentors and trainers for Afghan military and police forces since Dec. 24, 2008 and returned to Virginia Aug. 28. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

In addition to the direct mentoring and training, the team worked in coordination with the ANP leadership to prepare a 600-page Police Common Task Manual used for training on basic tasks such as care of personal weapons, proper wear of uniform and basic drill and ceremonies.  They also helped develop a Mission Essential Task List to assist the future police mentor teams with training, almost guaranteed to raise the levels of readiness of all mentored districts. 

The RPAC-S provided trainers that helped to usher in more than a thousand newly trained police into the force, Booker said.  In June, the RPAC-S spearheaded an aggressive effort to train more than 3,400 police prior to the August election, in order to provide better security and police presence.

RPAC-S personnel trained the Afghan police on tactics, operational planning, defensive planning, weapons maintenance, weapons qualifications, counter-improved explosive device training, and countless other tasks to improve operations, Booker said.  “A state-of-the-art C-IED lane was constructed at RPAC headquarters and hundreds of Afghan National Police and police mentor team members conducted training there,” he said.

Booker said that team members conducted many highly successful operations alongside their ANP counterparts that took hundreds of Taliban and many high-level leaders out of the fight. Team members also assisted with mentoring operations staff at Forward Operating Base Walton and assisted medical personnel with establishing much-needed clinics as well as improving base security for current and future units.

Several Virginia Guard Soldiers were assigned to the Regional Corps Advisory Command – South and mentored the members of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps, headquarted at Camp Hero near Kandahar, where they were responsible for teaching, coaching and mentoring the corps operations section, Booker said.

Virginia Guard mentors influenced the operations of the 14,000 Afghan soldiers in the 205th Corps and were involved in the fielding, training and utilization of the M-16 rifle, NATO machine guns, up-armored Humvees Booker said. Other members of the team performed medical duties at FOB clinics and supervised medic placement to the field.

Two Virginia Guard Soldiers served on the Corps Logistics Support Team where they administered millions of dollars to Afghan projects for substantial improvements in infrastructure and in civic and cultural facilities as well as two regional hospitals that will benefit millions of Afghans for years to come, Booker said.

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