News: Afghan soldiers improve communications infrastructure in Helmand
Story by Cpl. Ed Galo
COMBAT OUTPOST PANTHER, Afghanistan — Members of the 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, Afghan National Army raised a communications antenna March 27 at a forward location in Delaram district.
The VHF antenna will allow for better communication with ANA soldiers at Forward Operating Base Delaram II and posts in more remote areas around it.
While the ANA raised the antenna, Marines and sailors with the Brigade Mentor Team, Regimental Combat Team 6, supervised and advised them throughout the process.
“My soldiers and I hooked up a field antenna to have communication between Delaram and further outposts,” said Capt. Mohammad Zarif Akef, the deputy communications officer for the 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, Afghan National Army, aboard FOB Delaram II.
Before today, they had little practice setting up VHF antennas. Akef said he was grateful for the assistance he received.
“We don’t have much experience doing this,” Akef said. “The advisor team helped us a lot. We did it together, and thanks to them, I can trust my soldiers to be able to fix and set up an antenna almost anywhere.”
The process of putting up the antenna didn’t begin right away. Prior to the mission, members of the ETT coordinated and planned on how to teach the ANA how to erect the antenna at the designated retransmission site.
“Before the antenna, the ANA wasn’t able to communicate very well,” said 1st Lt. Luis Castillo, communications advisor for BMT, RCT-6.
With the addition of the antenna at the retransmission site, the ANA will be able to better communicate and have their radio signals reach further distances.
The advisors trained the ANA on how to set up the tower site and on how to make gear lists for everything they would need, said Castillo.
“The mission we have is for them to be independent,” continued Castillo, from Natick, Mass. “Now they have knowledge to do this on their own. I feel confident that if they had to do this without us, they could.”
The partnered progress has come through overcoming many challenges that BMT Marines face when working with the ANA, he said.
“The hardest challenge we have is obviously the language barrier,” Castillo said. “We get through that with the use of interpreters. The other challenge is the culture difference. The way we get through that is by being around them and getting to know them. We build friendships and working relationships with them.”
The language and culture barriers weren’t the only problem they faced while raising the antenna.
“There were some bumps in the road, but with the bumps in the road came learning. Some of the equipment broke, but we fixed it and got it up,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Jackson, communications chief advisor, BMT, RCT-6, of Sacramento, Calif.
“They’re hard workers,” Castillo added. “They’re determined to accomplish the mission and are eager to learn.”
Editor’s note: Forward Operating Base Delaram II currently houses the Brigade Advisor Team, Regimental Combat Team 6 in 1st 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.