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On the Ground: U.S. Forces Boost Security, Commerce in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 7, 2009 – U.S. forces are helping to equip Afghan forces with the tools they need to improve security and commerce in Afghanistan.

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Army Spc. Jacob Morris constructs a covering for Combat Outpost Penich's new water pump as construction at the six-month-old base in Afghanistan’s Kunar province nears completion, July 3, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller
  

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In recent days, U.S. forces trained Afghan border police on the use of up-armored Humvees, advised farmers to boost crop production and, to improve quality of life for their own, put the finishing touches on a combat outpost.

More than 120 Afghan border police returned to their home units recently with the skills to train others on the use of newly acquired up-armored Humvees. The officers had attended a four-week class taught by Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan’s logistics embedded training team at the Ministry of Interior’s Afghan National Police Transportation Battalion training area in Kabul.

The students came from several provinces, including Jalalabad, Nooristan and Kunar. The course included classes on preventive maintenance checks and services, safe vehicle operations, convoy techniques and tactics and driving skills.

The officers are responsible for securing the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as border areas across Afghanistan. They had been using pickup trucks to search and patrol the border, but these trucks do not provide the protection needed against roadside bombs or insurgent ambushes.

Upon graduation, the border police took possession of their newly assigned vehicles and convoyed home.

To boost the economy and help local farmers, Army Col. Stephen Jeselink, deputy commander of the Nebraska National Guard’s agribusiness development team and Task Force Warrior, visited and assessed greenhouses and a grape vineyard June 30 in Janqadam village in Parwan province’s Bagram district. A local contractor had recently installed trellising posts and wires at the grape vineyard. Trellising systems are used in vineyard agriculture to separate grapevines.

Jeselink visited the landowner of the vineyard and explained what work remains to produce a successful crop.

This Commander's Emergency Response Program project and others will benefit many farmers and people in the area, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Eldon Kuntzelman, an agronomist with the development team.

Nearby, at the site of 18 greenhouses, a group of landowners and contractors met with Jeselink and members of the team to inspect progress and discuss maintenance issues.

"The landowners are eager for [local residents] to come work and learn in the greenhouses," Kuntzelman said. He explained to them how tent panels to retain heat throughout the winter and drip irrigation systems inside the greenhouses allow for a longer growing season and increased food production.

Within a week, seeds and peat moss starters will be delivered to the greenhouses.

"In the years ahead, the grape vineyard and greenhouses should benefit all local farmers and people in the surrounding areas," Kuntzelman said.

U.S. forces also are improving the quality of life for their own. Indiana National Guardsmen from 2nd Platoon, 1613th Engineer Support Company, are nearing completion of construction on Combat Outpost Penich in Kunar province.

The unit, based in LaPorte, Ind., replaced the 65th Engineer Company from Fort Hood, Texas, which began construction in January.

"Were going through and putting the finishing touches on everything," said Army 2nd Lt. Darric Appel. "We hope to have everything finished up in about a week or so."

The soldiers recently completed the outpost's tactical operations center, winterized the living quarters and repaired several roofs that suffered heavy wind damage. All that remains is the completion of the latrines and shower facilities. Soldiers have been using outhouses and bottled water for personal hygiene since construction began six months ago.

Along with base construction, the Guardsmen have taken on several projects aimed at raising the quality of life for troops, such as constructing a deck and picnic tables outside of the dining facility.

When finished at Penich, the soldiers will provide construction support to another military instillation in eastern Afghanistan.

The 6-month-old outpost is one of many being constructed throughout Afghanistan as additional troops pour into the country, providing increased security, training and humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

(Air Force Tech Sgt. Shawn Cain of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan’s logistics embedded training team, Army 1st Lt. Lory Stevens of the Task Force Warrior public affairs office and Army Sgt. Matthew C. Moeller of the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment contributed to this article. Compiled from Combined Joint Task Force 82 and U.S. Forces Afghanistan news releases.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageSgt. Zahir Khan, Afghan border patrolman, checks the serpentine belt on a Humvee engine as part of preventive maintenance checks at the Ministry of the Interior Transportation Battalion in Kabul. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Shawn Cain  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMembers of the Nebraska National Guard agribusiness development team meet with a group of local landowners and contractors to discuss progress and maintenance issues in Janqadam Village in the Bagram district of Afghanistan’s Parwan province, June 30, 2009. Courtesy photo  
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