News: ANA assumes responsibility of FOB Blessing
Story by Capt. Jonathan Springer
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Army took a major step toward responsibility for their country’s security when it assumed control of Forward Operating Base Blessing in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province March 4.
Afghan soldiers now safeguard the Pech River Valley near the border with Pakistan – historically one of Kunar Province’s most volatile areas. Although FOB Blessing is not the first base transferred to the Afghan National Army, it is the largest in Regional Command-East transferred to date.
During a brief ceremony, U.S. Army Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, lowered an American flag while U.S. Army and Afghan National Army soldiers from the 2nd Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 201st Corps looked on. The Afghan flag remained raised throughout the ceremony. U.S. and Afghan soldiers have lived together at Blessing for the past three years.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph A. Ryan, commander of 1st Bn., 327th Inf. and commander of FOB Blessing for the past 10 months, from Pearl River, N.Y., praised the Afghan soldiers and their leadership.
“The soldiers of the 2nd Kandak are our brothers. We’ve fought alongside them for the last 10 months and they’ve proven they are ready to assume this great responsibility,” said Ryan. “On behalf of Soldiers from five U.S. Army Infantry Battalions who previously served in the Pech River Valley, and servicemen from the U.S. Marines, Navy and Air Force, I am proud to officially transfer command of Forward Operating Base Blessing to the Afghan National Army.”
ANA Command Sgt. Maj. Mohammed Afzal, the Afghan battalion’s top enlisted soldier, also expressed confidence in the ability of his soldiers to defend and hold Blessing.
“We are more than ready to take over this area,” Afzal said. “I’m proud to know that we’ve reached this point and are taking over the security responsibilities. We have trained and fought for this day and finally it has come.”
The final U.S. flag to fly over FOB Blessing and a marble plaque commemorating U.S. Army Sgt. Jay Blessing, killed in action Nov. 14, 2003, in the Pech Valley and for whom the FOB was named, will remain with the 1st Bn., 327th Inf. as they return to Fort Campbell, Ky., this spring.