KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Just a few short weeks ago a historic convoy traveled along two of arguably the most dangerous highways in southern Afghanistan and through several provinces to deliver a new fighting force to Helmand province and Operation Mostarak, the largest military operation since 2001.
Answering the call from Regional Command (South), the 402nd Brigade Support Battalion, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, launched a 140-vehicle convoy, its longest ever, with a mission to escort and assist the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army from the Kandahar province into the embattled Helmand.
The 215th Corps is the ANA's newest of seven existing corps and was developed to partner with the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand province.
"Our mission was fairly simple," said Capt. John Quinn, from Limestone, Maine, Alpha Company Commander, 402nd BSB. "Escort the ANA from Camp Hero to Camp Shorbak and make sure they got there with all equipment and personnel and assist them any way we can if they needed it. Turns out they were pretty self-sufficient."
The convoy was so large that it was broken up into serials to avoid causing serious traffic congestion. The convoy made it to Camp Shorbak in six hours without any major issues.
"The convoy went smoother than I thought it would," said Quinn. "We made very good time. The ANA were very organized and disciplined. There were no issues. It went faster than I anticipated."
Quinn said that they're not used to working with the ANA and a big move like this normally requires extensive coordination between the two militaries.
"It was important for us to work with the ANA and to see how they operate and for them see how we operate so we can continue to work together and build that bond between militaries," said Quinn.
The ANA have been training and are eager to get involved in the fight against the Taliban. The 215th Corps' movement to the Helmand province was a deliberate step toward increased ANA responsibility for an area tentatively to become RC (Southwest).
"Operation Moshtarak is a good operation," said Commander Touran Kamadi, 215th Corps. "People are fed up with the Taliban. That's why we are doing this operation."
The Afghan National Army has existed since at least the 1880s and now consists of more than 100,000 active troops. President Obama has called for an expansion of more than 250,000 Afghan soldiers over the next few years.
Alpha Company, the "Avengers," typically runs resupply and recovery missions throughout Task Force Stryker's area of operation but in much smaller convoy elements. This mission, containing roughly three times the normal vehicle count, required an unprecedented coordination of Soldiers and vehicles. Still, the Avengers expertly accomplished their task, thereby playing a major part in helping the 215th Corps get established.
"I think it was a great opportunity for the BSB soldiers and for the Stryker Brigade to do this mission," Quinn added. "I think we did very well. It feels good to be a part of the impact we've made on this country in RC [South]."
RCS2010; Operation Moshtarak
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