Thursday, June 14, 2007

What is Business As Usual?

Dear Family & Friends,

I realized that I keep talking about business as normal, but I don't think that I have ever really given you a whole lot of details about what exactly our business is.

To understand our job, you should know that our mission is normally performed by the special forces. During Vietnam for instance, Green Berets did the same thing that we are doing now: living with the local forces, providing them with access to our fire support and medical evacuation, and acting as a go-between with the "big Army." The ultimate goal is to work ourselves out of a job, so that they can stand on their own.

Now us "regular guys" are doing the same. Although the romantic images this mission evokes is of a Lawrence of Arabia-type dressed in native garb leading the Afghans in a desperate fight, the truth is quite mundane. Most of what we do is logistical to build their Army and prepare the ANA for the fight. For example, today I was helping some of our small arms repairmen sort through a shipping container full of weapons that had been turned in to the UN so that we could pull parts off of them to repair ANA weapons because we cannot get them repair parts through their poorly managed supply system.

Out in the field, the mentors are solving all types of problems with the ANA, such as: increasing force protection at an outpost by constructing perimeter walls, purchasing air compressors to help them clean the dust out of weapons and air filters, building septic systems, and even hiring mules to haul water from a stream to the outpost so that the men can bathe. We are entrusted with controlling the money that the US Government has dedicated to buidling the ANA, so every month we have teams that draw money from US Army finance offices that we then spend throughout the month to make all of this happen.

I think that National Guard Soldiers are extraordinarily qualified for this mission for several reasons. For one thing, the majority of us have jobs outside of the military and diverse life experiences that help us handle the myriad of responsibilities that are not on the "job description." As Guardsmen, we have also had to deal with training constraints that the Regular Army is not familiar with, so we are able to help the ANA make the most out of what they have when it comes to training -- the second biggest part of our job.

While we are trying hard to get the ANA capable, ultimately we do what it takes to get the job done. The Pennsylvanians are leading the way in this effort, and working primarily with the brigade headquarters and the combat service support functions, we have the ability to have a big impact.

In the weeks ahead, some of the Marine mentors from our brigade-team may be featured in upcoming photo-essays in Time and Newsday; the photojournalist from Newsday is still out in the field with our guys. I'll let you know if and when the stories appear.

Fly the flag today for Flag Day and the Army's 232nd Birthday!

1st Brigade, 201st Corps (ANA ETT)

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