News: Guard security team helping transition in Afghanistan
Story by Vaughn Larson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - After arriving in Afghanistan earlier this year, 16 Wisconsin Guardsmen are already helping to transition responsibility for the nation’s security back to Afghan hands.
The Wisconsin National Guard’s 104th Security Force Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT) deployed to Afghanistan as a key element of the U.S. military’s overall exit strategy for Afghanistan. The strategy depends on establishing an Afghan government, military and police force capable of standing on its own after U.S. forces leave the country in 2014.
Working from a remote outpost within an Afghan border police base, the SFAAT has so far adjusted well to life in Afghanistan, according to Lt. Col. David Larson, the unit’s commander.
“Our day-to-day varies, but we have established a good battle rhythm and all are adjusting well to it,” he wrote in an e-mail from Afghanistan. “Our team has really come together, and already many have established life-long bonds.”
Larson said the SFAAT travels frequently throughout the region in which it operates — conducting weekly logistics runs to acquire food, water, supplies and mail from home. The unit has also worked heavily in the Afghan border regions, assisting its Afghan counterparts in improving border security.
“We interact with our Afghan counterparts daily, and have established a great rapport with them,” Larson wrote. “Our mission is to advise and assist the regional border police to improve their capability for self-sustained operations in order to control and secure the region.”
The significance of the unit’s duties is not lost on the commander, who recognizes the importance of transitioning the security mission to the Afghans.
“This is an important piece of the overall national strategy of turning over security responsibility to the Afghan forces with the drawdown and withdrawal of coalition forces from Afghanistan by 2014,” the Baraboo, Wis., native wrote. “It is a consistent theme here of assessing the Afghans' status and readiness to operate independently.”
Formed last year out of an all-volunteer group, the 104th trained at Camp Shelby, Miss., and Fort Polk, La., before deploying to Afghanistan in January.