News: Maine Army National Guard unit provides force protection in Kabul
Story by Sgt. Rebecca Linder
CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan – For the 1136th Transportation Company, providing base security is not the typical mission for this Maine Army National Guard unit, but it’s a mission they have taken on to protect servicemembers stationed throughout the Kabul Base Cluster in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“It was a challenge transitioning from a transportation company to a MP [military police]type company,” said Capt. Peter Carter, 1136th commander. “We brought around 50 soldiers from a different unit who were already MPs who helped train the soldiers who had no experience and we also brought several engineers with us to help with force-protection upgrades.”
Stationed at Camp Eggers, New Kabul Compound and Camp Bala Hissar, these citizen-soldiers bring different skill sets to help execute the mission of force protection for the more than 3,000 U.S and coalition service members stationed at these three locations throughout the capital.
“That’s the great thing about the National Guard,” said Carter. “Not only do these soldiers come from different units, but they all have a lot of knowledge in their particular job and it is a great thing to have all that experience rolled up into one company.”
To help provide a secure operating environment for troops who live and work in the KBC, these soldiers manage base-security operations, personnel movement security, and provide a quick reaction force. By taking on this mission, the Bangor, Maine–based unit allows other U.S and coalition forces to focus on their primary mission of training and mentoring the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army.
“By us providing force protection for other service members, they don’t have to worry about that particular mission, and they can focus on their mission at hand [training Afghan National Security Forces], which is vital to U.S. troops coming home,” said Carter, of Belfast, Maine.
Helping the 1136th provide base security are other coalition partner nations and local Afghan security contractors. The Maine Guardsmen provide management and oversight of the services provided.
“We make sure the other security forces that help us are doing their job properly,” said Pfc. Patrick Callahan, of Lamoine, Maine, 1136th guard mount. “We control the gates and make sure they enforce all the policies and procedures to guarantee the gate is clear of any threats.”
“I was really surprised at the joint mission of force protection we have here,” added Carter. “It is amazing the amount of liaison partnership that goes on here to provide security. My soldiers do an outstanding job here working with the coalition forces and it really has a positive impact of the missions here and the force protection we provide.”
Carter also said they requested the support of the local Afghan police to help provide security during a recent visit from a U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which helped build a sense of pride letting the local police know they are wanted and needed.
Besides managing gates, the 1136th also provides a quick reactionary force.
“We are responsible for the well-being for all the soldiers in and around Camp Eggers,” said Spc. Joseph Jett, of Springvale, Maine. “If something happens…you can get that call. Anything can happen so you have to be ready.”
Recently, the QRF was tasked to support several high-profile areas within Kabul and can react to any attack outside the base if needed said Carter, “Because of our location, we have taken on responsibilities for all the embassies, the majority of ministries and several non-governmental agencies,” he added.
Another mission the 1136th has is aerostat recovery for Camp Bala Hissar. The aerostat, or the Persistent Surveillance System, is a floating blimp with high-tech cameras, which provide Afghan security forces with an extra layer of security and surveillance capability within the city of Kabul.
“If for some reason the tether loses and it starts to fly away, my soldiers would have to go out and recover it,” said Carter.
Lastly, the soldiers of the 1136th also conduct personnel movement security – providing a security detail for distinguished visitors who visit the camps. The 1136th has assisted with the protection of Defense Secretary Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, and even retired Marine Col. Oliver North.
With all the force protection duties these Maine National Guardsmen are assigned with, they have shown that no security mission is too big for these transportation Soldiers, and that they are motivated and up for the responsibility of protecting U.S. and coalition service members, as well as helping the Afghans secure their own country.
“Every day that goes by where we don’t have an incident in Kabul is another day of success for the Afghans and us,” said Carter. “By providing force protection, we help provide peace and stability in the city, which is definitely a step in the right direction. Peace is contagious, and once the Afghans have that peace and stability, we will be able to leave this country knowing we helped satisfy that goal.”