News: New Border Advisor Team up to bat in Helmand
Story by Cpl. Marco Mancha
COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- A new Border Advisor Team recently stepped up to the plate in the war on terror. While nearly half a dozen teams have come before them to train the Afghan policemen guarding the borders of Afghanistan, this group is unlike those before them.
The Marines and sailors of BAT-1 bring a whole new skill set to the Afghan Border Police of 1st Kandak, 6th Zone.
The team noticed a big change in the ABP’s performance and attitude from the beginning of their relationship. One member with the team gives credit to the BATs that came before them and the Afghan policemen’s will to work.
“We actually got here and all the stuff that we were going to teach them, they pretty much already knew,” said Sgt. James Carney IV of Clarksville, Tenn. “They know we’re not going to be here forever, and I guess it’s given them a sense of motivation to work for themselves. They already know vehicle checkpoints, basic police work, and much more, which allows us to just refine their skills so they can be more self-sufficient.”
Carney is currently a motor transport operator for BAT-1. It’s a small change from his original military occupational specialty as a vehicle recovery operator, but the wealth of knowledge he gained from his primary occupation allows him to help give classes to the policemen on vehicle maintenance, operation, and functions of the ABP’s tactical vehicles.
The Penn State graduate is one of 21 service members on the team who bring their own expertise to the table, helping to make the ABP a better fighting force. Similarly, Jacksonville, N.C., resident Sgt. Anthony Elzholz is the infantry tactics chief for the team and uses his experience as a rifleman and squad leader to help improve the tactical skills of the policemen.
Elzholz said he understands the ABP are not soldiers, but it’s beneficial for them to know how to set up and secure fighting positions, how to clear compounds, and other infantry tactics.
“These types of skills are what helped us win important battles in Afghanistan and will help the ABP keep the insurgents out of their area of operations,” said Elzholz.
“I might not get the opportunity to share what I know with these guys ever again, so the time to do it is now.”
The BAT’s members come from all types of occupation backgrounds and provide the border policemen a broad spectrum of knowledge. They offer the ABP advice on everything from Infantry tactics to vehicle maintenance, intelligence gathering and logistical support.
Sailors like Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert “Bobby” McSwain are doing their part to help mentor the Afghan security forces as well. The corpsman with the BAT uses his knowledge of rendering emergency medical treatment on the battlefield to teach the policemen how to properly administer first aid.
“We practice drills with them to make sure they are comfortable administering initial treatment in a combat environment,” said McSwain of Lago Vista, Texas. “The training I give them might help save a life later on down the road. That alone motivates me to help these policemen as much as I can.”
The sailor teaches classes on applying emergency tourniquets, first aid, and preventative medicine, such as good hygiene habits.
Maj. James M. Moore of Lilburn, Ga., the Border Advisor Team leader for BAT-1, said the progress the ABP has shown in the six weeks his team has been in Afghanistan is great. He also credits his team of Marines and sailors who work tirelessly to keep the ABP’s skills sharp.
“I’d say overall it’s going very well,” said Moore. “I think my Marines came in with a good attitude, a positive attitude. They listened to the advice of our trainers before coming out here, and they’ve approached it in that way. Honestly we’ve made some positive steps. We’ve had some struggles and will continue to have struggles, but it’s how you face them and overcome them that really matters. Because of my team’s hard work, we really haven’t faced a challenge we couldn’t overcome, and I think it’s made for a great start to a fresh deployment.”
Editor’s Note: Border Advisor Team 1, is currently assigned to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5 in 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 Forces 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.