News: Making Strides Behind the Scenes: Afghan forces, Marines serve Garmsir from operational coordination center
Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder
FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELHI, Afghanistan — Throughout Garmsir district’s developing city centers and sparsely populated desert areas, the familiar sight of Afghan National Security Forces is evidence of the growth in Afghan-led security operations.
While their presence is unmistakable at vehicle checkpoints and on patrol with U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, the budding Afghan forces are also making strides behind the scenes.
From a tiny operational coordination center inside the district police headquarters here, a mixture of ANSF members is working toward providing Garmsir’s security on their own. They’re learning how to function as “the brains behind the operation” under the guidance of Marines with Kilo Company, 3/3, said Cpl. Nathan Dittmer, an OCC-D advisor with Kilo Co.
The OCC-D serves as the ANSF’s hub for evaluating district security requirements. Representatives from the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and National Directorate of Security work together to respond to security needs within and outside city centers, and to collect and disseminate intelligence.
“The existence of such a coordination center for all the ANSF agencies is very important for Garmsir,” said 1st Lt. Maiwand Salim, an intelligence officer with the NDS assigned to the OCC-D. “We went through a lot of troubles here before the OCC-D existed. Since its creation, we’ve become able to receive and share information between departments on what’s happening in our district … and to solve these problems.”
In the past, Garmsir didn’t have a central location to collect information. District residents did not have a dedicated center to route issues through when they arose — until the Kilo Marines helped local security forces develop the center in late 2011.
“In the U.S., we grow up in the frame of mind that help is only a phone call away,” said Dittmer, a 23-year-old native of Nevada, Iowa. “We’re teaching the Afghan forces how to quickly and adequately respond to these situations, and helping them gain their people’s confidence that they can call and report any issue.”
Now, when local citizens or different agencies bring information or problems to the OCC-D, the ANSF members standing watch transmit the information to the appropriate police precinct for action.
First Lt. Derek Randall, an ANP training advisor with Kilo Co., 3/3, said their speed, communication and understanding of their role in the ANSF’s operational architecture has grown significantly since the center was created.
“We started out with illiterate watch standers who had never seen a map or talked on a radio,” said Randall, a 26-year-old native of Jonesboro, Ark. “Now, they extract grids, receive logistics reports, personnel stats, mission cards and constant information and intelligence updates.”
In between receiving and transmitting information, the ANSF members practice reporting drills with their Kilo advisors. They receive a mock situation and locate the precinct in which it occurred before sending the information to the appropriate partnered combat operations center.
Finally, they wait to receive a mission in response from the precinct’s ANP. The watch stander’s progression is measured by the time they take to complete the entire process.
Second Lt. Robert Hindle, the OCC-D officer in charge, said a significant part of the mentorship has been teaching the ANSF watch standers the importance of their role as decision makers.
“When a scenario comes down, the lower-level members aren’t used to making decisions on their own,” said Hindle, a 23-year-old native of Baltimore. “We’re working to develop their thinking about rank structure … that it’s ok for them to make a decision and then inform their chain of command.”
Hazrat Ali, an Afghan Local Police radio operator who serves in the OCC-D, said he has enjoyed learning the functions of each ANSF department. Working together has helped him expand his understanding of each branch and their unique roles.
“If one department can’t manage a problem, they can easily find assistance and support from the others to create a solution,” Ali said.
As Afghan forces near the assumption of lead security responsibility in Garmsir, their ability to operate independently has become a necessity. With a view to the future, Hindle noted positive growth in his ANSF partners’ abilities to quickly process information, make decisions and work together.
“The OCC-D was non-existent when 3/3 arrived, but it’s grown into a tool they can use to manage the battlespace once we’re gone,” he said.
Editor’s Note: Third Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibility within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
This work, Making Strides Behind the Scenes: Afghan forces, Marines serve Garmsir from operational coordination center, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.