PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The Vermont National Guard's 172nd Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, Echo Company, Distribution Platoon, from Morrisville, Vt., arrived at Forward Operating Base Lightning, Paktya province, Afghanistan, Mar. 16. This is less than a week after putting boots on ground in Afghanistan, to begin their mission of hauling supplies throughout the Paktya, Paktika, Khost and Ghazni provinces in eastern Afghanistan.
Hitting the ground running, the Distribution Platoon was out on the road the next day convoying from FOB Lightning to Combat Outpost Herrera with construction supplies in tow. Accompanying them were the Afghan National Army Soldiers the unit will partner with and the unit they are replacing, the Georgia National Guard's 48th Brigade, 121st Light Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, Echo Company, Distribution Platoon from Winder, Ga.
Despite the quick turnaround, the Distribution Platoon's Soldiers have received high praise from their predecessors and are eager to get rolling on their mission.
"The mission today is exactly what we trained on. It feels good to be here, out on a mission. It's better than sitting around. I like it when we're moving, it makes the time fly by," said U.S. Army Pfc. Scott Giguere of Plattsburgh, N.Y., a vehicle operator with the unit.
The unit's mobilization training included seven weeks at the Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Indiana and another nine weeks at Fort Polk, La.
Giguere said it was tough being away from friends and family while in training and will not get any easier on deployment.
"Being away from friends and family is difficult for everyone. But, we were still eager to get here and get to work. The faster we get to work, the faster we go home," Giguere said.
The Soldiers in the Distribution Platoon started their training with the idea their mission would be dedicated strictly to training their ANA counterparts. However, they received word during training that their mission changed. They would be going out on convoys alongside the ANA Soldiers in addition to training them. The unit took the news in stride and is prepared to work with the ANA.
"We'll train the ANA, conduct mentoring classes with them, get them more involved and then do a hand off to them. We're jumping right in when the Georgia Guard leaves," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Snipp, of Morrisville, Vt., the distribution platoon sergeant.
The incoming Soldiers' preparation and enthusiasm is not lost on those they are replacing.
"My impressions of the Vermont Guard unit are that they're definitely ready to go...They came in yesterday and we took them out on a long mission today...They did great," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jerry M. Garner of Dearing, Ga., the platoon leader for the Georgia Guard Distribution Platoon.
"The transition part is the killer. The Vermont people are going to have to get through that period. Later on they'll look back and say, 'That was before we knew this or did it this way.' They're fitting in and doing some good things and I know they're going to be just fine," said Garner.