50 graduate Fatima Girls High School

Tabasum Sharqi (left) opens a book she received for graduating at the top of her Fatima Girls High School class at a ceremony held at the Kunar Department of Women’s (click for more)

Polish and US Forces bond through weapons

Soldiers from the Polish Army and the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team-IV check their shot grouping during qualification on the Polish AK-74 5.56 mm Mini-Beryl short assault rifle Feb. (click for more)

TF Duke Soldiers volley for peace

U.S. Army Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, play an impromptu game of volleyball against a team (click for more)

Nurgaram District leaders electrify Nangaresh schools

Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, the Nurgaram District subgovernor, addresses an audience of teachers, government officials and citizens during a ceremony to celebrate a completed solar panel electricity project Feb. 21 in (click for more)

10th CAB Soldiers bring communications to Bagram’s east side

U.S. Army Spc. Raheem Stewart, an automations specialist with TF Phoenix, steps along the rafters of the building his team helped wire for communications. Stewart, from Dallas, was one of (click for more)

ANA, Red Bulls search Parwai during Operation Brass Monkey

An Afghan National Army soldier from Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 201st Infantry Regiment, searches a pile of rocks in the courtyard of a high-value target home outside the village of (click for more)

Female engagement teams trained to aid communication with Afghan women

U.S. Army Capt. Nicole Zupka of Fair Lawn, N.J., a battlewatch captain with Combined Joint Task Force-Paladin, helps an Afghan child with her writing skills during female engagement team training (click for more)

ANA, TF Storm break trail, make difference in Kharwar

LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers move through Kharwar District to prevent the Taliban’s freedom of movement Feb. 12. U.S. and Afghan soldiers braved more than 3 feet (click for more)

Ky. ADT II begins Panjshir sheep parasite project

Kentucky Agribusiness Development Team II members, U.S. Army Spc. Justin Allen (left), a London, Ky., native, and U.S. Army Sgt. Nicholas Combs, a Corbin, Ky., native, get to know a (click for more)

Engineer Soldiers deliver aid to Afghans

An Afghan carrying a child approaches U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Peter Moeller of Atkins, Iowa, a medic with Task Force Red Bulls, for humanitarian aid at Qale-Mussa Pain Middle School (click for more)

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PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey and his dad U.S. Army Spc. Steve Starkey, both of Council Bluffs, Iowa, pose for a photo Jan. 6. Both are attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 68th Infantry Regiment,which is currently deployed to Afghanistan. (Courtesy photo)PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Most Soldiers who are deployed miss their homes. But for U.S. Army Spc. Steven Starkey and U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey, a large part of what the word “home” represents is just a five-minute walk up the hill.

Steven, a 40-year-old mechanic by trade in Council Bluffs, Iowa, works as a wheeled-vehicle mechanic attached to Company A, 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment, which currently falls under 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division. His son Andrew works in Company A’s kitchen preparing breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. Both Starkeys are assigned to Company F, 334th Support Battalion out of Red Oak, Iowa.

For both Starkeys, joining the Iowa Army National Guard was a choice they made to serve their country and fulfill some personal goals.

Steven enlisted in the active-duty Army in 1989 as a heavy equipment mobile tactical truck wheel mechanic. He was slated to serve during Operation Desert Storm when personal issues at home prevented his involvement.

He was young and dealing with a troubled marriage when his chain of command made the determination to let him remain in the rear as his unit prepared to support Desert Storm.

“Looking back, I don’t feel I was mature enough to handle the task at hand,” he said, adding that his brief service helped him mature and gave him cause to consider future opportunities for service.

The events of 9/11 reignited a simmering ambition for Steven.

“I felt like I had left something on the table, an obligation I had left incomplete” he said.

So almost 15 years later, he began the process to rejoin the Army, eventually serving with the Iowa National Guard.  The process wasn’t easy.
Steven had remarried and had three additional children: daughters Ashley and Rachel and stepson Jon when he decided to reenlist for active duty. Despite trying three times, the active Army would not accept his application since he had more than two dependants.

Steven gave up trying for active duty after the third attempt. Then, in Spring of 2007, he met his daughter’s soccer coach, a staff sergeant in the Iowa National Guard. The soccer coach informed Steven that the Iowa National Guard had waivers and programs to allow people in situations such as Steven’s to join.

“A month after speaking with (the soccer coach) I was at (the military entrance processing station) swearing in for service,” Steven recalled.

A year later, Andrew raised his right hand and made the oath to serve his country, but he had a different reason: his daughter Kyra.

Being in the Iowa Army National Guard has given Andrew a means to provide healthcare and child support to his only daughter.

“I plan to start a savings account with the money I’m making (on deployment) to help pay for her college,” said Andrew

Joining the Guard came with some unanticipated benefits for Andrew.

“I see myself grow every day,” said Andrew, “whether or not I enjoy it all the time.”

Before making his commitment to serve in the Iowa Guard, Andrew had a loose-cannon mentality, as his father put it. He was an unruly youth who often did not think before he acted. That was nine months ago. Now, six months into deployment, Andrew is a much different person.

“He’s level-headed and can take criticism constructively like an adult,” said Steven, who went on to say witnessing this change has been one of the most rewarding benefits to come out of being on this deployment together.

Steven said sometimes a father has to be a father, regardless of rank, and stick up for his son.

“It’s hard to keep the fatherly instinct at bay when I see my son getting in trouble by his boss,” said Steven. “I often have to swallow my pride and know my place.”

The Starkeys act more like brothers or best friends when talking with one another, calling each other by their last name and making fun of just about anything the other says. Despite being co-located at the same company, the Starkeys still feel as though they could spend more time together.

As trying as some days may get, the Starkeys usually find some time throughout the week to hang out and unwind together, giving them a chance to solidify, in a unique way, a bond that can only be made between a father and son deployed together.

“The one thing that everyone else wants ... we have,” said Andrew “A family member on deployment.”
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Spc. Steve Starkey of Council Bluffs, Iowa, works on the engine of a Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicle Jan. 6. Starkey is a wheeled-vehicle mechanic for Company A, 1st Battalion, 68th Infantry Regiment, and is currently deployed in eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by US Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Rasmussen, Task Force Lethal)PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Pfc. Andrew Starkey of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Company A, 1st Battalion, 68th Infantry Regiment, works in the kitchen Jan. 6. (Photo by U.S. Army 1st Lt. Nicholas Rasmussen, Task Force Lethal)



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Coalition forces engage insurgents in Kapisa

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in defensive operations in the Alah Say District, Kapisa Province, eastern Afghanistan, March 29.

Coalition forces and aircraft responded to an insurgent attack. Four insurgents were killed by air strike and three were killed by direct fire from coalition forces.

All rounds were reported safe and on target. There were no reports of injuries or damages to civilians in the area.

ANSF, ISAF begin major operation in Laghman valley

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Security Forces, partnered with U.S. Task Forces Red Bulls and Phoenix and French Task Force La Fayette, began operations in Galuch Valley, Laghman Province, March 25.

Soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s 201st Corps, Afghan National Police’s 202nd Shamshod and the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, TF Red Bulls, supported by the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Phoenix, conducted an air assault into the valley to remove enemy forces. Battle Group Richelieu, TF La Fayette, provided artillery support from Kapisa Province.

While conducting operations, the forces found multiple weapons caches including assorted rocket propelled grenades, mortar rounds, Russian rockets, materials to make homemade explosives, various other ordnances and communication equipment.  

While moving through the valley, unit leadership met with village elders to discuss the security situation and to allow them to give up insurgents still in the area.

The operation will assist the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in establishing the valley as a new district giving the Afghan people in the area freedom from the insurgency.   

President Hamid Karzai approved the creation of the additional district and hopes the new district will help improve the security of the area and support the reconstruction effort.

Mohammad Iqbal Azizi, Laghman Province governor, held a press conference March 7 announcing the establishment of a new district located in the valley.

ANSF, TF Bastogne continue operations in Kunar


KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and coalition troops from Task Force Bastogne continued operations in the Shigal District March 18 after clearing the village of Lawsin and the surrounding area.

Afghan leaders, coalition forces look forward

PAKTYA, Afghanistan – Leaders from across eastern Afghanistan attended a security conference March 9 at Forward Operating Base Thunder, the home of the Afghan Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps.