News: Soldiers build rapport with local villagers
Story by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver
FORWARD OPERATING BASE RAMROD, Afghanistan — As the shift in Afghanistan turns to winning over the local population, U.S. Soldiers operating in the Maywand District are noticing they can build relationships by lowering their weapons and socializing with villagers over a cup of Afghan tea.
As Capt. Duke Reim, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, Charlie Company Commander, is finding out, the villagers are more receptive to him and his Soldiers when they see them interacting with them on a personal level, providing consistent security and meeting their needs.
On this particular visit to the village of Esquabad, Charlie Company Soldiers were conducting an assessment with the village elder to gauge their acceptance of coalition forces in the area. An asset the 1-12 IN uses to help them assess a village is the members of the Human Terrain Team, which embeds anthropologists and other social scientists with combat units in the field to help commanders understand local cultures.
"The main purpose of our visit was a make or break type," said Reim, a Tucson, Ariz., native. "The last time we were up there, Habi Bullah, the son of the village elder, was very standoffish. Normally, we are greeted more openly."
Bringing in members of the HTT, helps commanders like Reim gain a better understanding of the villagers and how to build their trust.
"These visits help build rapport and maintain a respectful relationship with the village elders," said Stephen Lang, an HTT member from Hinton, Iowa. "My goal was to return to the village and assist the commander by lining my relationship and experience with his goals and expectations in hope to regain the support and assistance from the village elders."
Lang believes a lack of patrols and recent events in the area have affected the relationship between the 1-12 IN and the villagers. For Reim, increasing their patrols and honoring simple requests made by the village elder seems to have made a drastic difference.
"It was totally different this time around," said Reim. "They like the security we bring them and overall they are open to us being there. The other night they had a wedding and they wanted us to keep our distance -- we didn't fire or fly anything over their area that night and he thanked me for honoring his request. It's the simple things that will build relationships."
Building relationships is something the 1-12 IN hopes it can continue doing with other villages around Esquabad. Although, for Reim, he acknowledges the uphill battle they face.
"This country has been at war since Alexander the Great- this is all this country knows," he said. "These people have never known true peace. Even between wars they were ruled by warlords. If we can bring them government that is somewhat fair and just, it will help change the direction of this country."