Friday, December 25, 2009

Canadian and Afghan National Army Soldiers on a Patrolling Mission

Afghan national army soldiers lead the way on a foot patrol through the Panjva’i District. This mission is the first the ANA have planned and led with almost no help from their Canadian counterparts.

Walking through muddy fields and jumping across creeks, the Canadian soldiers followed closely behind their Afghan counterparts on a mission through the Panjva'i District. For the Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, this describes almost every mission they have gone on with the Afghan National Army's 2nd Kandak. The difference this time however, is that the mission was planned by the ANA with only observational support from the OMLT.

"This mission is an ANA initiative with the objective to sweep through an area that is known for insurgent activity," said Canadian Sgt. Ryan Pederson, head mentor of the OMLT. "They are looking for weapons caches, improvised explosive devices, and to show the locals that the ANA are there to provide security and assist them against the insurgents."The ANA 1st Company troops are now a step closer to not requiring direct support or mentoring. They are one of the few units this close to being self-sufficient.

The mission the ANA designed was a two-day operation with each day devoted to a different section of the Panjva'i District. The first day began around sunrise when the patrol, lead by ANA soldiers, moved out to search surrounding villages and talk to local community members.The Canadians had the utmost confidence in the ANA soldiers' abilities and had no worries that the ANA would know exactly what to do in any situation.

"I feel confident enough to walk anywhere with these guys," said Vancouver, British Columbia native Cpl. Duane Gyuricska, a mentor with the OMLT. "I would be comfortable by myself with a group of ANA. They have come a long way and are starting to perfect what we have taught them."One aspect the OMLT has taught the ANA is how to move as safely and effectively as possible. Pashtun commands to "spread out" and "keep the formation going at a steady pace" used to be heard regularly while on patrols but now it is second nature to the ANA troops to follow these fundamental rules.

After the first day of patrolling, the ANA did not find an insurgent presence but were able to show the locals that they are there to provide security for the area. It is important for the locals to see the ANA taking over operations, said Gyuricska. It will give them more confidence that their own people are able to protect them.

The second day started with a challenge. Another unit passing through the area came across an IED that held up the mission. After a few hours, the device was removed and the mission carried on. Much like the first day though, nothing was found, but the troops still consider the mission a success.

Canadian Cpl. Duane Gyuricska helps Afghan National Army 1st Sgt. Ghulam Jan figure out what direction to go next after Jan’s equipment breaks. Gyuricska said that he trust his Afghan counterparts and has confidence in their abilities as soldiers.

"No one was hurt and we were able to make our presence in the area known," said Pederson, a native of Grimshaw, Alberta. "To us, that is still a successful mission, with or without finding the enemy."With the success of one mission, the ANA hope to continue on their way to defending their own country.The ANA realize the implications their efforts are having, not only for their own people, but for the world.

"This is not just an Afghanistan enemy," said ANA Lt. Col. Sakhi Barriz. "This is an enemy to the world. They want to use our country and we don't want that. We want to get rid of all the enemies in Afghanistan."With the success of this mission and hopefully many more to come, the ANA appear well on their way to fighting on their own and carrying out future missions with total autonomy."I really believe it is only a matter of time before they are capable of doing all the missions by themselves," said Gyuricska.


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