Deputy Sec Def visits Fort Bliss Soldiers in Afghanistan
Sgt. John D. Ortiz,
3rd BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A lot can change in six months – a promotion, a deployment, and even record low temperatures and snowfall. After visiting the 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team at Fort Bliss prior to its deployment in August 2011, Dr. Ashton B. Carter, now the deputy defense secretary, visited the brigade again, this time traveling to Forward Operating Base Shank to speak to Soldiers on how their new fielded equipment and weapon systems are performing.
“I told him at [Fort Bliss, Texas] I would come find him over here, but he didn’t tell me there would be two feet of snow,” said Carter after a brief introduction where he thanked Col. Mark H. Landes for hosting the event. “It’s great to see you and great to see some of you whom I met back at Bliss.”
Carter continued by thanking the Soldiers for their service in Afghanistan and overcoming the challenges they face day after day.
“This is the turning of the corner in this whole situation and its occurring right now, right here, and everyone knows that and everyone appreciates it,” he said. “It’s a historic achievement that you are a part of. We watch from Washington with tremendous admiration and confidence.”
As part of his visit, the 3rd BCT, 1st AD, assembled a group of subject-matter experts in their fields and brought them to the partnered tactical operations center the brigade jointly manages with an Afghanistan National Army brigade to talk candidly with Carter and Marine Lt. Gen Robert Neller, the Joint Staff director of operations.
“Take advantage of the hindsight,” Neller told the roundtable. “What do you know now that you didn’t know before, what gear works, what is the stuff we should be buying, because the Sailors and Marines are the same way, if the gear doesn’t work, they are just going to leave it, if it does work, they are going to use the heck out of it.”
Lt. Col. Matthew Ingram, the Special Troops Battalion commander for the brigade, spoke on female engagement teams and how useful they are during combat patrols and operations.
“It’s definitely been value added,” said Ingram. He described his Soldiers that work in the FETs carrying heavy loads and conducting dismounted patrols. “It’s hard work, but we are making money.”
Language training down to the platoon level that allows street level engagement, counter IED patrols combining route clearance teams and maneuver units, and the use of biometric data were all topics discussed during the roundtable discussion where subject-matter experts highlighted the successes they have been having during their deployment.
“One of the things we have been doing really well is cultural awareness,” said Col. Kenneth King of the Security Force Adviser Team for Logar. “Any patrol we do and any interaction we have with the Afghans is a cultural experience. … If we treat them with respect, they will respect us right back, and I think we have manifested over the course of our deployment.”
M777s – the 155 mm howitzer – and maintenance during the historically low winter temperatures was a topic that was talked about by Staff Sgt. Gregory G. Edwards, assigned to the 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment, with the brigade.
“We ensure we check our guns and equipment three times a day to identify deficiencies and correct them before we are called to shoot in support of Coalition or [Afghanistan National Security Forces],” said Edwards.
After the roundtable discussion, Carter presented coins to the Soldiers who participated in the discussion. Following the event, Carter was given a tour of the PTOC and talked with 4th Afghan National Army Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Safi Raziq on the progress being made by the unit.
“This was very helpful for us and we do take notes and take action,” said Carter prior to leaving. “And for those of you that I’ve seen before, it was great seeing you again. And – who knows – you might see me a third time before you are done.”
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