Recent Features (126)
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.- He watched as five Marines beside him dropped, struck by the sheer force of insurgent machine gun fire. Within seconds, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Cole joined his brothers as a three-round burst lifted his 200-pound frame and 80 pounds of gear completely off the ground, moved him five feet in the air, and slammed him into the dirt– all in less than half a second.
TARIN KOT, Afghanistan- Local police in Uruzgan Province are being bolstered with the skills to dispose of life threatening explosive devices as they attend the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course (EHRC) for the first time in two years.
ARAH, Afghanistan— Members of Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah met with local leaders in Cin Farsi Village to assess school refurbishment progress in Farah province, July 14.
U.S. Army Capt. Brian Woller, a civil affairs officer assigned to Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah, led the mission to meet with Pusht-e Rod District Governor Ghawsuddin to gain a better understanding of recent progress made toward opening two local schools.
“There were two main goals for the visit,” said Woller. “One was to see the progress, if any, on refurbishment of the schools. The other was to ensure they are making the effort to educate the youth in the community.”
The community has 13 teachers who are currently teaching students from a temporary location until the two school buildings are ready to be used, according to Woller.
“We’re going to continue to follow up and provide assistance,” said Woller. “Not only ensuring the refurbishment gets completed, and that the teachers and students get moved into the facility, but that it’s done in a timely manner and up to standard.”
The PRT’s mission is to support economic development and effective governance at the district, municipal, and provincial level in Farah Province in order to enhance the legitimate exercise of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s authority and its ability to provide basic services to the people of Farah.
“Civil affairs officers act as liaisons and mentors,” said Woller. “We go out and attempt to assist the local populace and the local leaders to provide services to the community. At times, we are able to get small scale projects either to bolster the local economy or to provide basic needs immediately to the people to help them survive. As we progress through the deployment, we transition more to that teaching and mentoring role to help them become self-sufficient and to be able to do these things on their own.”
U.S. Army Maj. Melvin Holland is the Civil Affairs Team leader for PRT Farah. “I’m impressed with Capt. Woller’s performance, being a young civil affairs officer fresh out of school, he has been extremely motivated. He wants to engage the Afghan populace and he wants to do the right thing for the Afghan people,” said Holland. “He’s made it a point to get out there on a regular basis and try to make a difference.”
U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nelson, PRT Security Force platoon sergeant, accompanied Woller on the mission. Nelson’s security force team is made up of National Guard Infantryman out of Alaska charged with ensuring the safety of everyone assigned to the PRT. “Every mission is challenging in its own way,” said Nelson. “My team is very good at what they do.”
“The security force assistance allows me the freedom to focus specifically on the meeting or on the inspection,” said Woller. “When we toured the school, I didn’t have to worry about the security aspect of the mission. It really gives you more freedom and a level of comfort in knowing that piece is taken care of for you.”
July 23, 2012: By Lt. Benjamin Addison, Provincial Reconstruction Team Farah
Redistributed by www.SupportOurTroops.org
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -“I remember the day I heard that America was going into Afghanistan,” said Lance Cpl. Behzad Razzada, a member of the Embedded Partnering Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “My parents were happy because it was a chance for Afghanistan to unite and fight for freedom. They said it was the only way that injustice in Afghanistan would be finished.”
The idea of providing a better future for the Afghan people resonated with Razzada, a 24-year-old native of Afghanistan.
“I was born in Kabul and lived there until I was 10,” said Razzada. “I went to school there. It was just a normal school like anywhere else before the Taliban came. I studied until the fifth grade … and then chaos started. Everyone started leaving the country, all heading in one direction and hoping they didn’t get killed by the Taliban.”
Razzada’s family left the country after the Taliban implemented their harsh policies.
“I was pretty young, but I remember [the Taliban] beheading people, making people wear certain type of clothes and maintain certain hygiene standards,” said Razzada. “People who worked for the previous government were all in danger. Anyone who killed [employers of] the previous government would be rewarded, and my father had held a high position.”
Travelling to Pakistan with his family, Razzada spent the next three years attending school north of Peshawar City, where he studied math, science and English, while his family applied for permission to immigrate to the United States.
“We didn’t know if we were going to come to the United States. People used to say that the chances of successfully making the case to come to the United States were about 10 percent,” said Razzada. “When we left Afghanistan, we couldn’t stay in Pakistan because they were still killing members of the former [Afghan] government there … and that’s why we were accepted. We came to America with refugee status, so we were part of that 10 percent who got accepted.”
Razzada’s time in Afghanistan and Pakistan would serve him well both later in life when he returned to the region as a Marine, and more immediately when he began primary school in St. Louis.
“My English was decent, not very strong, but decent … so I started school right away,” said Razzada. “The culture was extremely different though.”
After graduating high school and attending Yuba College in Yuba City, Calif., Razzada joined the Marines.
“I joined the Marine Corps after two years in college where I majored in psychology,” said Razzada. “I am going to finish my school, so the Marine Corps is a good way to pay for college and be part of the military at the same time.”
CLB-4 was already training for their deployment to Afghanistan and when Razzada joined the battalion.
“I had to talk to my parents and tell them that I was going to get deployed,” said Razzada. “They told me it was a good chance for me to go there and be a helping hand because I was from the country. They told me to go there and do my best.”
Razzada is in an ideal place to make a difference while assigned to the EPT.
“I speak Dari, a little bit of Pashtun, Hindi and Urdu along with English,” said Razzada. “I had the perfect chance to help, especially having the [chain of command] I did, who let me interact with the [Afghan National Army] as much possible.”
The EPT worked with 2nd Battalion, 5th Kandak, 215 Corps as advisors and subject matter experts to assist in training, as well as planning for and executing operations.
“We were part of a Combat Service Support Kandak. Our mission was to train them... to support forward infantry battalions,” said Maj. Charles E. Parker Jr., officer in charge, EPT, CLB-4.
Taking such a hands-on approach to helping build a better future for the Afghan people suited Razzada.
“Like every other Marine on my team, he is mature beyond his years, and he was always looking forward to helping,” said Parker. “He had a strong bond with our interpreters … and I would bring him along sometimes to [meetings], and he could help fill me in on … the perception and mood amongst the ANA.”
Razzada brought his journey full circle when he returned to Afghanistan as a Marine and helped rebuild the country in the aftermath of Taliban rule.
“I’m extremely happy that I had this experience,” said Razzada. “What the EPT has done is make the ANA more confident in themselves and make them more capable when they are out there on their own. We accomplished our mission.”
July 26, 2012: By Cpl. Mark Stroud, 1st Marine Logistics Group
Redistributed by www.SupportOurTroops.org
WASHINGTON – Last year’s surge of U.S. and coalition forces into Afghanistan, with the simultaneous growth of Afghan forces, is leading to tangible progress for peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, according to a biannual Defense Department report released last week.
WASHINGTON – Osama bin Laden is dead, but al-Qaida still is dangerous, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said today in a letter to the agency’s employees.
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan – Intelligence is indispensible for soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team in the counterinsurgency fight here.