USA — 101st ‘Currahee’ Brigade Prepares for Afghanistan Deployment

FORT POLK, La., May 24, 2010 — FORT POLK, La., May 24, 2010—For troops seek­ing the most real­is­tic train­ing expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble before deploy­ing to Afghanistan, most would­n’t expect to find it with­in the pine forests of west­ern Louisiana.

The Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
The Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter at Fort Polk, La., pre­pares rota­tion­al train­ing units with sce­nar­ios that repli­cate sit­u­a­tions they’ll encounter dur­ing deploy­ments to Afghanistan.
DoD pho­to by Don­na Miles
Click to enlarge

But here at the Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter, that’s exact­ly what the 101st Air­borne Division’s 4th Brigade Com­bat Team is real­iz­ing, as it goes through a rehearsal exer­cise designed to build on its strengths and iden­ti­fy any short­com­ings before the deploy­ment.

The 4th BCT “Cur­ra­hee” arrived here ear­li­er this month. It is wrap­ping up a demand­ing train­ing regime that Army Col. Sean Jenk­ins, the brigade com­man­der, is count­ing on to ensure mis­sion suc­cess in Afghanistan.

“This is our last big train­ing exer­cise,” Jenk­ins said, before the 4th BCT deploys to east­ern Afghanistan as part of the 30,000-troop surge force there. The 4th BCT will be the last of five 101st Air­borne Divi­sion “Scream­ing Eagle” brigades to deploy to Afghanistan. As Army Maj. Gen. John F. Camp­bell, the division’s com­man­der, was cas­ing the divi­sion col­ors back at Fort Camp­bell, Ky., Jenk­ins’ troop­ers were focus­ing on the skills they’ll need when they arrive in east­ern Afghanistan. About 60 per­cent of Jenk­ins’ sol­diers will be return­ing to the same area of Afghanistan they served in a year and a half ago – a big plus in Jenk­ins’ book. “It’s an incred­i­ble advan­tage,” he said. “It takes some of the home-court advan­tage away from the ene­my.”

The Cur­ra­hee brigade had built strong rela­tion­ships with their Afghan coun­ter­parts dur­ing the past deploy­ment that Jenk­ins plans to rein­force in the months ahead. He was struck how deeply the bonds run when sev­er­al of the brigade’s for­mer Afghan mil­i­tary coun­ter­parts paid a vis­it to Fort Camp­bell.

“They knew them by name,” he said. “And I’m not just talk­ing about our guys know­ing their names, but them know­ing our sol­diers, too. “I think it’s a great advan­tage when you can build upon what you left 17 months ago.”

The biggest change since the brigade’s last deploy­ment is Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s Afghanistan strat­e­gy, being imple­ment­ed on the ground under the lead­er­ship of Army Gen. Stan­ley A. McChrys­tal.

“I think the goal is the same: a sta­ble, secure Afghanistan where the peo­ple have con­fi­dence in [and] sup­port the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan,” Jenk­ins said. And McChrystal’s revised tac­ti­cal direc­tives, issued last July, place an empha­sis on pro­tect­ing inno­cent civil­ians while con­fronting the insur­gency. “It real­ly comes down to the allo­ca­tion of your resources – your most pre­cious being peo­ple – and how you apply the [coun­terin­sur­gency] strat­e­gy,” Jenk­ins said. “I don’t look at it as … lim­i­ta­tions or con­straints. It is actu­al­ly a ben­e­fit. You are get­ting after that same goal with­out vio­lat­ing the cul­ture.

“You are hon­or­ing the cul­ture of Afghanistan and you are … show­ing the peo­ple that, ‘See? We can do this,’ ” he said. “We can bring agri­cul­ture to your region. We can bring med­ical. We can bring edu­ca­tion with­out vio­lat­ing the cul­ture.”

Anoth­er big change since the Cur­ra­hee Brigade’s last deploy­ment is the empha­sis on increas­ing­ly mov­ing Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces into the lead. The 101st will be large­ly respon­si­ble for train­ing and men­tor­ing Afghan Nation­al Army and Afghan Nation­al Police forces. And exer­cis­ing a “com­bined action” strat­e­gy ini­ti­at­ed by the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion, they’ll embed with their Afghan coun­ter­parts.

“As we do things for­ward, every­thing is [going to be] com­bined action,” Jenk­ins said. “Every­thing this brigade will do, there will be an Afghan lead. So if we are out on patrol, there are Afghans there with us. We have planned it togeth­er. We have rehearsed it togeth­er, and we are going to exe­cute it togeth­er.

“If some­one needs to go into a house, the first one in the house is [going to be] an Afghan,” he con­tin­ued. “The first voice [one] hears is Afghan.” That focus has been para­mount in the train­ing plan the 4th BCT worked out with the JRTC cadre months before its arrival at Fort Polk.

The Cur­ra­hee have been keep­ing their eyes on what Jenk­ins calls the “big six.” It’s an exten­sive array of capa­bil­i­ties he con­sid­ers crit­i­cal to bat­tle­field suc­cess: phys­i­cal fit­ness, marks­man­ship, bat­tle drills, med­ical skills train­ing, dri­ving and, reflect­ing an area of Army-wide empha­sis, resilience.

The brigade’s “Toc­coa Tough” pro­gram — named for the Geor­gia town where the sto­ried unit that came to be known dur­ing World War II as the “Band of Broth­ers” was found­ed in 1942 — empha­sizes men­tal as well as phys­i­cal resilience for sol­diers and their fam­i­lies, Jenk­ins explained.

Now at JRTC, the brigade is ham­mer­ing away at those and oth­er capa­bil­i­ties, with an empha­sis on company‑, troop- and bat­tery-lev­el oper­a­tions dif­fi­cult to con­duct with­in the con­fines of its home sta­tion.

JRTC’s exten­sive train­ing space – 200,000 acres that includes live-fire ranges, sit­u­a­tion­al train­ing exer­cise lanes and 22 mock Afghan vil­lages — pro­vide the per­fect venue for fine-tun­ing those skills that will be crit­i­cal in Afghanistan.

Oper­at­ing under the watch­ful eyes of train­er-men­tors from the JRTC cadre, the sol­diers are work­ing shoul­der-to-shoul­der with role play­ers serv­ing as Afghan secu­ri­ty forces as they con­front a wily oppos­ing force well-prac­ticed in insur­gent tac­tics.

They inter­act with the local pop­u­la­tion, also por­trayed by role-play­ers, ever attempt­ing to sway the “hedgers” and fence-sit­ters and bol­ster sup­port for the coali­tion, and more impor­tant­ly, the Afghan gov­ern­ment and nation­al secu­ri­ty forces.

“It is not us, [going] for­ward,” Jenk­ins said. “It is them see­ing the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan [and them see­ing that the] Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces are legit­i­mate, and that they are the ones doing it. We are just help­ing them do it. We give them some back­ing. We give them some train­ing. But like we have seen in oth­er areas of the world, they have got [to be the ones to do it.]”

Jenk­ins expressed that com­mit­ment in the Pash­tun lan­guage dur­ing a mock news con­fer­ence inte­grat­ed into a JRTC train­ing sce­nario. The brigade will stand “shohna ba shohna” – shoul­der to shoul­der – with the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces to pro­vide a secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment that “will allow the Afghan peo­ple to live their dai­ly lives with­out fear of insur­gents,” he said.

“The Currahee’s num­ber-one pri­or­i­ty is to assist the Afghan peo­ple and do every­thing in our pow­er to improve their qual­i­ty of life,” Jenk­ins said. Speak­ing to his Afghan mil­i­tary coun­ter­part, role-played by an Afghan nation­al, Jenk­ins pledged his brigade’s sup­port and assis­tance to the mis­sion. “We are proud to be part of your mis­sion,” he said, empha­siz­ing the word “your.”

“And we will sup­port you in your mis­sion to pro­vide the peo­ple a bet­ter way of life,” he added.

After the mock news con­fer­ence, Jenk­ins expressed con­fi­dence that the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces ulti­mate­ly will be up to the task of assum­ing full respon­si­bil­i­ty for their country’s secu­ri­ty.

“Many of them are phe­nom­e­nal,” Jenk­ins said. “They are incred­i­bly com­pe­tent peo­ple, incred­i­bly com­pe­tent offi­cers.” Many Afghan non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers, he not­ed, are grad­u­ates of the sergeant’s major acad­e­my.

Jenk­ins said he rec­og­nizes the impor­tance the U.S. lead­er­ship is plac­ing on what hap­pens in Afghanistan dur­ing the next six months. And he has no doubt that his own sol­diers are up to the task ahead.

“Mis­sion accom­plish­ment is some­thing you are taught from day one,” Jenk­ins said. “And I think they are going to look at it and say, ‘OK, here’s the chal­lenge. Let’s go out and get after it.’ ”

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →