Oct. 6 , 2010

NATO staff visits 29th ID troops in advance of Afghan deployment

Maj. Wes Parmer
29th Infantry Division Public Affairs        

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division welcomed visiting senior leaders of NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan to their division headquarters Oct. 2, and the visit provided an opportunity for deploying members of the division to learn more about their upcoming mission in Afghanistan.


Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton, NTM-A deputy commander-Army, and Brig. Gen. Jefforey A. Smith, assistant commander-Police Development, meet with Lt. Col. James Pridgen of the 29th Infantry Division during a visit on Oct 2.  The 29th Infantry Division will soon be deploying to Afghanistan to assist in development and training of Afghan national police and military forces. (Photo by Maj. Wes Parmer, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Brig. Gen. Gary S. Patton, deputy commander of Army development for NTM-A, and his staff visited Fort Belvoir as a stop in their tour of several installations around the country. The team is visiting units scheduled to deploy in the near future in support of NTM-A in order to share insight on their roles and responsibilities in theater. 

Members of the 29th Infantry Division will soon deploy as members of the Afghan Development Assistance Bureau, filling a critical role within NTM-A. The ADAB is a training mission to assist in the development of Afghan police and military personnel. 

“Our primary goal is to develop Afghan police that can secure their own nation and to build a force that is self reliant,” said Patton. 

Patton and his staff met with Maj. Gen. Frank E. Batts, Sr., 29th Infantry Division commander, along with other senior leaders from the 29th that will be deploying to Afghanistan. As architect of the future of Afghan police and military forces, Patton shared that the goal of achieving 134,000 trained military personnel by October of this year is ahead of schedule. There are currently 138,000 members in the Afghan army. 

In a sign of the progress that is being made culturally in the country, Patton spoke of witnessing the first ever female graduate from Afghan officer candidate school. 

“There are now 29 women officers serving in Kabul, filling roles in hospitals, logistics depots and other administrative offices,” said Patton. “They are all Kabul-based, in support of the cultural sensitivities requiring that they be able to return home each evening.”

Other achievements include the addition of literacy programs into basic training for new recruits, dramatically improving the formal education opportunities for Soldiers and police forces. 

“The Afghan people are talented and motivated individuals, often filled with the warrior spirit,” said Patton. “They carry a pen or pencil displayed prominently as a sign of pride in their literacy.”

He also described the concept of stewardship in their partnership with the Afghan people. Spoken in Dari, one of the dominant Afghan languages, the concept is known as “Shahna ba Shahna,” or “Shoulder to Shoulder” when translated to English, said Patton. In another Afghan language, Pashto, the same concept is known as “Ooga pa Ooga,” he said.

No matter how you pronounce it, the message is the same. 

“We are helping them to help themselves,” said Patton.

Col. Will O’Neil, 29th Infantry Division deputy commander, and Col. Paul Griffin, 29th Infantry Division chief of staff, each spoke of the value of the visit by Patton and his team.

“This visit gives us a clearer understanding of the NATO mission so that we can be better informed and prepared when we deploy,” said O’Neil. 

“We are gaining the benefit of an invaluable amount of lessons learned by our predecessors,” said Griffin.  “When we deploy, these lessons will allow us to hit the ground running.”

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