BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition forces killed five insurgents during operations in eastern Afghanistan throughout the past 24 hours, June 14.

Kunar Province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces killed four insurgent during a small arms engagement in Darah Ye Pech District.

Wardak Province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces killed one insurgent during a small arms engagement in Sayyidabad District.

Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.

Soldiers from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), take part in a cake cutting ceremony as part of the Army's 237th birthday celebration at Camp Vance in Bagram district, Parwan province, Afghanistan, June 14. The birthday event served as a reminder of the commitment soldiers make to defend and honor their country.

Soldiers  from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A), take part in a cake cutting ceremony as part of the Army's 237th birthday celebration at Camp Vance in Bagram district, Parwan province, Afghanistan, June 14. The birthday event served as a reminder of the commitment soldiers make to defend and honor their country.

ANSF, paratroopers conduct joint operation in Ghazni

Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces conduct a 5-day joint clearing operation called Operation Shin Splint.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan (June 14, 2012) – Afghan and coalition forces killed three insurgents and detained five during operations in eastern Afghanistan throughout the past 24 hours, June 13.

Kunar Province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces killed three insurgent during a small arms engagement in Watahpur District.

Wardak Province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces detained four insurgents during an engagement in Maidan Shahr District. The detained suspects were transferred to a base for questioning.

Logar Province
Afghan National Army soldiers and coalition forces detained one insurgent during an engagement in Baraki Barak District. The detained suspect was transferred to a base for questioning.

Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.

Local Afghan businessmen and Bill Swaney, the U.S. Department of State’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan’s Parwan Province, cut the ribbon at a water pumping station in Charikar, June 11. With U.S. assistance, the pump’s reservoir was connected to the city’s electrical grid and now brings water to about 900 local homes.

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Two local businesses in eastern Afghanistan's Parwan Province hosted ribbon cutting ceremonies this week in celebration of significant expansions in their production capabilities.

For Bagram Food Company, an Afghan-run business started in 2011 by a U.S.-led development team, the ribbon cutting marked the installation of an electrical transformer that will improve their ability to produce bottled juices, water and dried fruits for sale in the local community, said Bill Swaney, the senior civilian representative for the U.S. Department of State in Parwan.

Even before this most recent improvement, Bagram Food has made encouraging progress since its opening little over a year ago, Swaney said.

"The company started with about 10 employees and has since grown to employ around 90 local Afghans," he said. "[Business here] is still in its infancy in some regards, but they have the potential for a lot more."

Swaney and a small group of U.S. Soldiers attended both ceremonies. Following the first ribbon cutting, the group continued on foot to the second ceremony at a local water pumping station. Along the way, bottles of fresh, bright orange juice from Bagram Food lined the street vendors' counters.

The second ribbon cutting, perhaps the most notable, celebrated the connection of a local well to Charikar's electrical grid. Previously in 2008, another U.S. driven project opened four wells across the city but soon fell into disuse because the cost of the diesel fuel used to pump the water from the reservoirs was deemed too expensive.

Swaney said the connection of the pumps to the electrical grid saved the $1.3-million project from going to waste. With quick-response funds amounting to a small fraction of the initial cost, two of the four original reservoirs are pumping water again. The wells now distribute water to about 900 local homes, Swaney said.

Additionally, the now-active pumps will increase local revenue for the city's water company, he said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Swaney talked to a group of Afghans gathered for the ceremony:

"My friends and family hear about some of the attacks that happen here in Afghanistan and they call to make sure I'm OK," he said. "It's nice when I answer them, to tell them about the good news that is happening here, like the work we've done at this pumping station."

In addition to working directly with Afghan officials and business owners, Swaney helps coordinate the governance and development efforts of several coalition teams in the area, including a Korean Army Provincial Reconstruction Team and a U.S. Army unit, Task Force Defender.

Swaney said U.S. funding was involved in both projects. And while a helpful hand is good today, it could be harmful tomorrow, he said. While the combined work Coalition Forces and the State Department do for Parwan is tremendously positive, he stressed the need for international assisters to take a back seat.

"Where we can, we need to back off and let them do it for themselves," he said, "and I'm very pleased to see where we've backed off, the Afghans are absolutely jumping in and taking it on."

Swaney had originally expected the deputy provincial governor and the mayor of Charikar to attend the ceremonies, and even when he received word they would not make it, he still credited their absence as a good indication of the state of governance in the province.

"I was originally frustrated that [they] weren't able to come to the ceremonies," he said, "but on the same token, I was completely psyched to find out why they couldn't come: they were governing. They were busy working, independently, doing what they needed to do as officials."

Swaney later got word that while he was celebrating these two achievements, another ceremony was held in Charikar to mark the opening of a factory there. He bills this as perhaps the biggest success of the day.

"I didn't even know about it, and that's great," he said. "We're not going to be the ones here forever; we're not going to be the ones plugged in. Having an event like that happen without my knowledge is a good indication that they can sustain business on their own."

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Carr, a Pensacola, Fla., native serving with the 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, shows officers from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior Special Missions Wing how to pressure test a hydraulic line they just made. Carr was one of several instructors during a U.S.-Afghan aviation maintenance partnership day on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan June 9. U.S. aviation mechanics are sharing techniques with their Afghan counterparts to help their maintenance operations become safer and more efficient.

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Your average story about a U.S.- Afghan partnership involves a foot patrol with the infantry through some dangerous territory. 

Because of the terrain in eastern Afghanistan, helicopters are critical for troop and supply transportation. When Americans head home, we’ll take our air support with us, leaving Afghan forces to continue the aerial mission themselves.

This partnership isn’t about guts-and-glory battles with the Taliban, but about battles that won’t take place once the United States is gone unless the country’s helicopter maintenance programs progress to self-sufficiency.

The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade hasn’t had much opportunity to partner with Afghan forces.  U.S. Army Lt. Col. Darryl Gerow, 122nd Aviation Support Battalion commander, a former special operations pilot and 160th SOAR company commander, sought colleagues working with federal police forces who frequently use helicopters to see what he could do to improve Afghan aviation assets.

“They have helicopters that need to be fixed, and we have helicopters that need to be fixed, so we thought ‘let’s put a program together, see if they’re receptive to it, and make something more enduring,’” said Gerow, a Middletown, N.Y. native. 

They partnered with the Afghan Special Missions Wing, formerly known as the Air Interdiction Unit, a special federal police unit operating under the Ministry of the Interior. 

“This is day one of what we hope to be an enduring process, going forward and partnering with Afghan helicopter maintainers.”

According to a May 13, 2010 Air Force news article, the SMW is a U.S. Army-mentored counternarcotics aviation unit stationed at Kabul International Airport, which provides support to a variety of ground units with its fleet of Mi-17 helicopters. The Afghan-only Mi-17 crews regularly conduct training and operational missions in support of the MOI, the Afghan National Police and other counternarcotics forces around Afghanistan.
 
The U.S. Army’s 122nd ASB provides mechanic support to the 82nd CAB’s nearly 200 airframes, tearing apart and reassembling helicopters in record time to maintain a constant aviation presence over the Regional Command-East battlefield. 

Afghan maintainers currently operate under an old Soviet maintenance model, which means “everyone does everything.”  They lack the specialized shops Americans use- a system which allows each section to focus knowledge on a specific piece of the aircraft, coming together to accomplish the large project much faster.

“One of the things we show them is how we set up our shops, our maintenance, our avionics, and our production control to give them that exposure,” said Gerow.  “The other thing it gets them is exposure to just tools, processes, how we work, and how they might be able to adapt that to their own aircraft.”

Americans and Afghans swarm a U.S.-built CH-47 Chinook.  The aircraft is different from the Russian-made Mi-17 the Afghans operate, but they catch on quickly.

“We showed them the engine, then we went for a break, and when we came back they were already on the other one, and they were doing a pretty good job, said U.S. Army Spc. Israel Vela, of Pheonix, Ariz. “Basically, we just supervised them from that point on.  They catch on quick. They kept on saying it was too easy. They could probably fix anything.”

“Even though they’re different aircraft, sheet metal is sheet metal, avionics are avionics, hydraulics are hydraulics,” said Gerow.  “So they might be different airframes, but what makes a helicopter fly is all the same.”

The hope is Afghan maintainers can take back some of the safety measures they learn on the aircraft and apply it to their own equipment.

“We came here to learn new techniques,” said Afghan Lt. Col. Abdulsatar Noori, the SMW maintenance unit commander, via a translator.  “We haven’t seen anything like this before, so we’re trying to learn a new way of doing things.”

In the hydraulics shop, Noori learns to make a hydraulic line, then test it under 3,000 pounds of pressure to check his work.  As U.S. Army Sgt. Joseph Carr, of Pensacola, Fla., shows the senior commander the process, the group looks impressed.  They talk excitedly between one another, pointing first at the testing bench, then the hydraulic line in Carr’s hand.  The impression is they may have just solved a problem in their own shop.

“What we learn here, absolutely, we can use these things,” said Noori.  “This is what we hope to use in the future.  We can think, ‘O.K., we’ve done this before’ when we take it over there.  We learn new ways of doing things, and we can apply them because the basic techniques are similar.”

Beyond technical knowledge, both the Afghans and Americans enjoy working with and meeting each other.  They were a bit weary of each other early in the morning, but by lunch time, troops from both countries are working side-by-side.

“It was fun teaching and I like to learn,” said Vela. “It’s a two-way street.  These guys have 20 or 30 years of experience.  It’s actually a little intimidating.  I’m only two years in the making.  They learn, I learn, they teach, I’ll teach, and everyone benefits.”

For the 122nd’s Afghan partners, the opportunity is a point of pride to show off their knowledge and learn to apply their skills in new ways.

“If I work here for one more day, I don’t need any more help; I can install an remove an engine on a Chinook aircraft easily,” said Afghan Sgt. Said Igball, an SMW mechanic.  “Next time I want to work on removing and installing rotor blades, work on transmissions, and go deeper and learn more about this aircraft.  It is all so interesting.”

The hope is to continue the program, establishing a training schedule and milestones, then pass it off to the 101st CAB when the 82nd leaves in about three months. 

“My goal is to get the ball rolling on an initial partnership program, and turn the blueprint over to the 101st when they hit the ground,” said Gerow.  “Right from day one, they’ll have nine months to make a more enduring program, process, educational tools, and partnership effort.”

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Sarah Bammel, a native of Cottage Grove, Wis., and Master Sgt. Kentin Bauer, a native of Sparta, Wis., check out crops inside of a greenhouse at the Khas Kunar Demo Farm June 7, 2012. The Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar agricultural section assists the Demo Farm to show the farmers and other locals nearby more effective ways at cultivating crops, as subsistence farming makes up the majority of products created within Afghanistan. The PRT works alongside with local governance to connect the people of Afghanistan with their government. Both soldiers are members of the PRT agricultural section and are deployed from the Wis. National Guard.

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army National Guard Capt. Sarah Bammel, a native of Cottage Grove, Wis., and Master Sgt. Kentin Bauer, a native of Sparta, Wis., check out crops inside of a greenhouse at the Khas Kunar Demo Farm June 7, 2012.  The Provincial Reconstruction Team Kunar agricultural section assists the Demo Farm to show the farmers and other locals nearby more effective ways at cultivating crops, as subsistence farming makes up the majority of products created within Afghanistan.  The PRT works alongside with local governance to connect the people of Afghanistan with their government.  Both soldiers are members of the PRT agricultural section and are deployed from the Wis. National Guard.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt Christopher Marasky, PRT Kunar)

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Gov. Mohammad I. Azizi speaks with several of the local Afghan National Security Forces commanders at the conclusion of a transition ceremony held at FOB Mehtar Lam, June 12. The ceremony was conducted to transfer responsibility from Task Force Warhorse to the local ANSF troops.

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Gov. Mohammad I. Azizi speaks with several of the local Afghan National Security Forces commanders at the conclusion of a transition ceremony held at FOB Mehtar Lam, June 12. The ceremony was conducted to transfer responsibility from Task Force Warhorse to the local ANSF troops. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alexis R. Ramos, RC-East PAO)

KHOWST, Afghanistan – Afghan children look on as paratroopers assigned to 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, stationed at Combat Outpost Chergataw, patrol Tore Obeh village June 8, 2012. The purpose of the patrol was to interact with locals and collect biometric data.

KHOWST, Afghanistan – Afghan children look on as paratroopers assigned to 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, stationed at Combat Outpost Chergataw, patrol Tore Obeh village June 8, 2012. The purpose of the patrol was to interact with locals and collect biometric data.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Frank Inman, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Spc. Glen Abbot stands guard during a meeting of military, civilian and Afghan officials in eastern Afghanistan’s Parwan Province, June 11. Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s headquarters battalion, Abbot’s day-to-day missions involve escorting military and government officials on governance and development missions in the province.

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Big Red One Soldiers deployed to RC-East specialize in personal security missions.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan – Afghan and coalition forces detained 12 insurgents during operations in eastern Afghanistan throughout the past 24 hours, June 11.

Ghazni Province
Afghan National Police and coalition forces detained 12 insurgents during an engagement in Ghazni District. The detainees were transported to a base for questioning.

Operations in RC-East are still ongoing.

Afghan National Army Soldiers in the ANA 203rd Corps Combat Medic Course attend a graduation on Forward Operating Base Thunder June 6, 2012. Some of the Soldiers in the course have acted as medics for months prior to attending the training.

PAKTIYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — When a Soldier goes down on the battlefield with a wound or other injury, the first person everyone looks for is the medic.

The Afghan National Army 203rd Corps Combat Medic Course at Forward Operating Base Thunder provides highly trained ANA medic non-commissioned officers to support their units in the field.  During the CMC training, the NCOs learn life saving skills that could assist them in saving a fellow Soldiers life. 

The all Afghan led course is designed to teach them skills similar to those taught to U.S. military personnel.

“I try my best to teach these Soldiers as much as I can,” says ANA Sgt. 1st Class Mohmad Hasan, a CMC instructor.  “If they do not know how to help their fellow Soldiers survive in battle, it is going to be a big problem.”

Unlike the U.S. military, where a servicemmember receives extensive individual training before being assigned to a unit, the Afghan National Army doesn’t always have that luxury.  Some of the students coming through the CMC have worked as medics in the field for months or even years.

“Now that these Soldiers have completed the combat medic course, they can go back and really help their units,” said ANA Sgt. 1st Class Farid Hamrad, a CMC instructor.

In the Afghan Army, any Soldiers can function in a medic role, but only those who have completed a CMC are allowed to receive medic incentive pay.  Now that these Soldiers are finally getting the chance to attend the CMC, they can finally be compensated for their life saving skills.

“This training is going to be very useful,” says ANA Pvt. Abdul Satar, a recent graduate of the CMC from the Corps Logistics Kandak who has worked as a medic for eighteen months prior to attending this course.  “Before the training, I didn’t know what to do, but now if one of the Soldiers is injured, I can help them.”

Satar also said that he had small amounts of instruction from other medics, but nothing like the CMC provided him.

“Now I feel like I am ready to help,” said Satar.

The CMC also takes students straight from basic training and teaches them the skills necessary to aid their injured comrades.

“I had only been out of basic training four days when I started this training,” says ANA Staff Sgt. Noorudin, a medic for the 1st Kandak, 4th ANA Brigade.

Noorudin and Satar both added that being a medic is the highest honor for any ANA Soldier.

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The RC-East Public Affairs team assists with the free and open reporting by the media through engagement with international, regional and local media in a planned, timely and accurate manner. Media opportunities, embeds, and interviews will be conducted wherever appropriate within the rules of operational security.

All queries should be addressed through the RC-EAST PAO contact information above.