NOW ZAD, HELMAND PROVINCE,, AFGHANISTAN
NOW ZAD, Helmand province, Afghanistan - In the wild west, a sheriff and his deputies brought justice to an otherwise lawless land. Hollywood has depicted a small group of men with long rifles and badges fighting against gangs of unruly outlaws usually wanting something from the town and taking it by force.
The situation is not entirely different in Afghanistan. Insurgents work in groups, terrorizing and harassing much of the nation’s population. Coalition forces are working throughout the country to stop insurgent activity, but the nation has sheriffs and deputies of its own, they just need a little guidance to "rustle up the bad guy."
The Marines and sailor with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment’s Police Embedded Training Team are getting the local law enforcement in Now Zad up to par to bring lawlessness to justice.
The PETT is dedicated to ensuring the Afghan Uniformed Police in Now Zad will be a self-sustaining, independent force when the Marines leave the area.
“Police in Now Zad are very close to standing on their own two feet,” said Capt. Christopher Timms, the PETT commanding officer. “They are already providing security in Now Zad, but they need help logistically. They need to be able to run their own convoys and supply things for themselves. Once they are capable of doing that, the AUP can take care of the security in Now Zad.”
The police have begun actions to make themselves more independent by budgeting for their own fuel costs instead of being entirely supplied by Marines. They have also weaned themselves off of bottled water, used by Marines, and instead use water from wells located in close proximity to their base.
With their newly found independence, the police are developing a command operations center allowing them to tackle more sophisticated missions.
“Right now it is just Marines and AUP running a COC 24 hours a day,” said Timms. “Starting this up is a huge step forward because the communication between the two units has dramatically increased. They are able to react to situations in the district much faster. They are able to communicate with the Marines in case we need to add some extra combat power to the situation.”
The police are currently performing operations that they devise on their own, using systems and techniques taught by Marines. In time they will be able to complete every police function on their own accord, without assistance.
“Recently they conducted a cordon and search and captured a suspected IED [improvised explosive device] maker,” said Timms. “This is [intelligence] that they got themselves, and a cordon that they conducted themselves. They brought him into their headquarters, processed him and sent him to Lashkar Gah to be tried with little help from Marines. That, to me, is a huge step forward.”
The AUP’s responsibilities consist of manning checkpoints, patrolling the bazaar, and reacting to insurgent or criminal activities. This is done to secure the village. The nature of their job has them working closely with the Marines, Afghan National Army and the local citizens, seeking out would be insurgents. Timms explained the cooperation is important and an aspect the PETT pushes on the police.
“They are beginning to work together better,” said Sgt. Anthony Sanchez Jr., 23, a logistics advisor with PETT. “They are using a lot of communications and coordinating with the Marines more. Things happen and they report it up.”
The Now Zad AUP currently has more than 90 policemen, a 33 percent increase from when the PETT arrived in February. Increasing the AUP’s numbers has been a driving force for the PETT.
The team adopted a technique where they provide humanitarian assistance bags, filled with enough supplies to sustain a family for approximately a month, to the families of those who have been recruited by the police.
“This way if their bread winner leaves and goes to the basic school, the family will still survive off of the HA money,” Timms said.
Increasing the number of police officers creates a wider variety of operations and responsibilities the police are able to undertake. Their potential to perform security operations fittingly is limited only by the police officer’s individual capability.
When the PETT first arrived, only five percent of the police had attended the AUP’s basic training in Lashkar Gah, the capitol of Helmand province, according to Timms. The AUP now has nearly 40 police officers who have attended the course.
A new agenda devised by the PETT will have the remaining police officers sent through the eight-week long basic training course within a six-month time frame.
The police have shown a tenacity essential in conducting operations in their harsh terrain. The AUP and PETT have worked together for seven months now and have depended on each other in times of danger and hardship.
“They will go out there and work. They like to fight,” said Sanchez, a Homestead, Fla., native. “They look out for us.”
Editor's Note: 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, Regimental Combat Team 8 is currently assigned to 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Marines train police of Now Zad to independence, by Cpl Clayton Vonderahe, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.