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    Task Force Hannibal reflects on successful tour

    Task Force Hannibal reflects on tour

    Photo By Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell | Lt. Col. James Droppleman and Command Sgt. Maj. Marco Torres case the colors of the...... read more read more

    CAMP MARMAL, AFGHANISTAN

    03.10.2014

    Story by Lt.j.g. Bryan Mitchell 

    ISAF Regional Command North

    CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan – Professors write about history. Their students study it for a final exam.

    But here in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains, where thousands of coalition troops serve in support of a burgeoning Afghan National Army, troops complete their tours knowing they made history.

    The soldiers of Task Force Hannibal, responsible for all logistics associated U.S. forces stationed at Regional Command North, were fortunate to conclude a tour in which they played a vital role in a unique part of American military history.

    They drove the convoys and synchronized the logistics to end the American presence at four forward operating bases, including the Kunduz cluster of bases.

    It was there, hundreds of miles from Kabul and even further from the Taliban’s ancestral homeland, that the war to unseat the government that provide harbor to Osama bin Laden began in 2001. Years of relative stability followed the initial battles in Kunduz before a resurgent insurgency compelled the German-led contingent at Regional Command North to engage in heavy fighting from 2009 to 2011.

    Twelve years later, under a clear October Afghan sky, troops from Task Force Hannibal were among the last Americans to serve in Kunduz. They closed the base and rolled out of town without firing single shot.

    “There was a lot of sweat and blood lost in Kunduz, not only American but also German,” said Task Force Hannibal Command Sgt. Major Marco Torres. “When we did the retrograde you sit back and it hits you: That was an end of an era.”

    Staff Sgt. Dustin Abrazado, 30, echoed that sentiment.

    “It was one of the first bases and here we are closing it. I can tell my grandkids someday, I was there, I was part of it,” he said.

    The task forces’ commander, Lt. Col. James Droppleman, 42, of Keyser, W. Va., said the unit’s success was predicated on months of relationship building with American and coalition forces.

    “We got here and realized that we had an immediate problem to solve,” he said. “How do you get people that you don’t own and who you don’t have a relationship with to get things done? You have to build consensus.”

    Capt. Timothy Wilson, 37, said coalition operations created unique challenges. But none were too great for his team.

    “There were enormous challenges in the different ways people work and the fact that our systems don’t talk,” he said. “We have to operate in a way we aren’t used to, which meant we had a f face to face interactions.”

    Once the systems were in place, the task force got busy making history. Some days it was running convoys from the far stretches of the largest regional command in Afghanistan. Other days it was training coalition partners. And sometimes it was helping a partner nation complete a simple task.

    “Making things work. Nobody goes wanting. That’s how we did business,” Wilson said. “If there’s a partner country that needs something, we find a way to make it work. We find solutions to the most difficult and most mundane tasks.”

    Working with the diverse coalition is a point of pride for nearly every soldier that spends time aboard Camp Marmal. Led by the German Army, Regional Command North is home to 17 nations collaborating to support the train, advise and assist mission here in Afghanistan.

    Pilots from the Royal Netherlands Air Force launch their F-16 fighter jets from the same runway used by helicopter pilots from the American Task Force Attack, a contingent of Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters. Mongolians and Armenians provide base security while a contingent from the Hungarian army trains local Afghan police.

    The singular blend of nations makes for colorful garrison life.
    You can hear a half dozen languages weaving through the lunch line at the coalition dining facility and troops as well as civilian support specialists are just as likely to travel across on sprawling installation on the outskirts of Mazar-E Sharif on bicycle as they are by tactical vehicle.

    The different cultures, language, traditions and military techniques create a host of challenges. But unit after unit, from Task Force Hannibal to the military police, assert with pride they’re better soldiers and citizens from the lessons they teach and learn working alongside the diverse coalition.

    Capt. Robert Meyers, 34, of Crowley, Texas, recalled a morning briefing at Forward Operating Base Khilaguy when he prepped alongside Dutch Marines, Afghan local contractors and fellow American soldiers.

    “When you take a moment to think about it, as I did then, you really appreciate that you are part of something very unique and very special,” he said. “We spoke about our mission and what we had to do and none of our backgrounds mattered as much as getting the job done.”

    And the job has rarely been more nimble.

    The task force was here during a time of massive transformation in which American and coalition forces played a support role while the Afghan National Security Forces assume the lead in the fight against insurgents in the country. Soldiers, many on their first tour to a combat zone, had to adjust on the fly to a reality that was more complex than forcing the enemy into capitulation.

    Never lose sight of the dangers that lurk in all parts of this Texas sized country, the soldiers of Task Force Hannibal learned to refocus their energies on providing exemplary logistics support for the mission of reducing coalition forces.

    “We learned it wasn’t all about being behind a .50-cal,” Abrazado said. “It was about how do we support this unit to make RC North better.”

    While the action may not have been as kinetic as previous tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, Sgt. 1st Class Blas Devora said the work provided a different form of satisfaction.

    “You could physically see the difference we were making,” he said. “Sitting where I was, I could track the drawdown in each of the [
    [forward operating bases] and we could talk about how we were achieving the commander’s intent. And that was satisfying for our soldiers.”

    The Task Force is now on its way back to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, for a well-earned reunion with family and friends. But their work here at Regional Command North will never be far from their mind.

    “I’m extremely proud of this team and they should long remember the incredible things they accomplished here,” Droppleman said.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 03.10.2014
    Date Posted: 03.10.2014 02:08
    Story ID: 121754
    Location: CAMP MARMAL, AF 
    Hometown: CROWLEY, TX, US
    Hometown: KEYSER, WV, US

    Web Views: 182
    Downloads: 0
    Podcast Hits: 0

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