June 3, 2008

Virginia National Guard receives Afghan Army training mission orders

By Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, announced June 3 that the Virginia National Guard has received mobilization orders to form two units with the mission of training the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The orders call for the Virginia Guard to form two embedded training teams, each consisting of 16 Soldiers. One team will work with an Afghan National Army brigade of approximately 1,500 Afghan soldiers, the other will work with a battalion of approximately 500 soldiers.

“The mission to train and mentor the Afghan National Army is an important one,” Newman said. “Our Soldiers will be able to share their experience in a variety of areas to help make the Afghan Army a more professional and competent organization. The efforts of our Virginia Guard Soldiers will help contribute to greater stability in the region.”

The units will train in Virginia for the next several months, then mobilize on Federal active duty orders and travel to Fort Riley, Kan. to conduct their final train up before heading to Afghanistan. The two units are expected to begin their period of active duty in late August to early September.

“The Brigade and Battalion ETTs will provide training and mentoring to the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police in order to continue to stabilize the police and military forces in Afghanistan,” said Maj. Mike Martin of Afton, the senior mentor of the battalion team. “Soldiers will provide mentoring to their Afghan counterparts in logistics, tactics, strategic planning, military decision-making process, and battalion and brigade level staff operations. The trainers will be embedded with Afghan counterparts and will live, train and fight alongside them.”

Soldiers from all over Virginia have been selected for the mission, said Col. Mike Harris of Gladys, the senior mentor for the brigade team. Most of the positions on the two teams have been filled, and the few remaining vacancies should be filled before the two teams drill together for the first time in early July at Fort Pickett.

“We have selected Soldiers with a great deal of military experience,” Harris said. “But we were also looking for Soldiers with the leadership and diplomatic skills to operate in this environment.”

The mobilization orders call for an active duty period not to exceed 400 days, but the Secretary of Defense can extend tours for operational needs not to exceed 24 months or 730 days.

News organizations that would like to interview leaders or Soldiers involved in this mission should directly contact Col. Mike Harris at 434-294-1651.

Operation Enduring Freedom

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is a multinational coalition military operation initiated in October 2001 to counter terrorism and bring security to Afghanistan in collaboration with Afghan forces. OEF operations led to the collapse of the Taliban regime and helped bring a measure of security and stability to Afghanistan for the first time in a generation.

    * Operation Enduring Freedom involves troops from over 20 nations, including about 19,000 U.S. forces and about 3,100 non-U.S. troops.
    * U.S. and Coalition forces continue to engage Taliban remnants and other extremists and coordinate with the Pakistani military to bolster security along the Afghan-Pakistan border. U.S. and Coalition Forces operate 14 of 23 provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan. The PRTs support the Afghan government through reconstruction and good governance initiatives, including projects that help Afghans rebuild damaged roads, community buildings, and wells.

    * During the 2004 presidential election and the 2005 National Assembly and Provincial Council elections, U.S. and Coalition forces partnered with Afghan security forces and other international troops to provide security.

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