New York National Guard, British Soldiers Aid Afghans
By Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 12, 2008 More than 1,000 residents of Ud Kheil village here were treated by Afghan medical staff and received medicine, vitamins and personal items through a joint assistance operation conducted by New York Army National Guard, Afghan and British soldiers Aug. 7.
Army Capt. Joseph Merrill works with a translator to direct a father seeking medical attention for his son. Merrill, a native of Binghamton, N.Y., is a member of the New York National Guard. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The project is the latest in a growing partnership between the Afghan community and Camp Phoenix in the Afghan capital, home to the New York National Guard's 27th Brigade Combat Team headquarters, Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, coalition allies and the area's Afghan national security forces.
The assistance mission was held at the girls' school, a construction project that was completed in the spring. That work, officials said, is part of Camp Phoenix’s ongoing outreach and support to the Afghan government and its people.
"We actually requested that Camp Phoenix provide us medicines," Haji Farid, the village elder and district representative, said through an interpreter. "That is why the people are happy that U.S. forces are doing this."
"They have asked for our assistance, and we have been able to provide it," Elmira, N.Y., native Army Capt. John Shannon, project coordinator with Task Force Phoenix, said. "And the reason we are able to provide it is because we have this great cooperation with the Afghan army, the police, our British allies and, of course, our troops are out here doing a fantastic job as well."
On the morning of Aug. 7 a team of security forces, along with medical and support staff, left Camp Phoenix in an armored convoy and moved the short distance east to the village. The team was joined there by units of the Afghan National Army, Kabul Military District and Afghan National Police.
Afghan security personnel already were on checkpoints as the team from Camp Phoenix arrived. Providing additional security were members of the British army’s 2nd Scottish Regiment, Royal Highland Fusiliers.
"We have worked with the U.S. before, at the Ali Khail School when I first got here in May," said Capt. Lizzie Winchester, education and training service officer assigned to the 2nd Scots. Her Kabul patrol company conducted mounted surveillance around the site, while Task Force Phoenix security force personnel established an outer cordon. The inner cordon around and inside the school was run by Afghan personnel.
Winchester said her troops discovered a suspicious device along the road, which meant that plans were working. In addition, women soldiers from her command searched women coming to the event, while Afghan soldiers searched the men to ensure that no weapons or explosive devices would threaten the event.
"This one's working really well," Winchester said, adding that she and her team were "enjoying working together once again - supporting each other and the Afghan national security forces to make things a bit safer."
Shannon said the security measures were paying off and was quick to point out that Afghan units had leading roles.
"We are just the outer piece,” he said, “and they are doing the real hard work of making sure that anyone who gets into the clinic to be seen -- incidentally, by Afghan doctors -- [is] secure."
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Martin Scott, a nurse from Long Island, N.Y., who works at the Camp Phoenix clinic, said the team meets with village elders to determine the community’s medical needs, then plans and identifies the right combination of medicine and supplies that will be needed. At the event, they mentor and support the Afghan medical staff.
"We allow them to take care of their people. We provide the medications and advice on prescribing and then dispersing them," he said.
Farid, a local resident, expressed gratitude that schools had been built for the village’s boys and girls. He said a clinic is now the village’s primary need. His community has more than 4,500 homes with an estimated population of 25,000 to 30,000 people.
"And now we are happy that the U.S. forces will build a clinic in the village for us, and they are already starting to work on it," he said. "They are doing good things. Camp Phoenix is our neighbor. When we are meeting and discussing different issues -- security and clinics, schools, bridges, ditches, … they are the only organization helping us.
“And when we need to talk about the issues, if we give them a call they invite us,” he continued. “Sometimes we invite them, because we think they are from our own village. They are part of our own people."
(Army Lt. Col. Paul Fanning of the New York National Guard’s 27th Brigade Combat Team is serving with Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix.)