News: A-OK: Last of Oklahoma Guardsmen leave Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Matthew Thompson
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - On a warm April morning, the remaining twenty Oklahoma National Guardsmen with the stability transition team departed Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
During their time in Afghanistan, these citizen-soldiers assisted, advised and mentored their Afghan counterparts, the Afghan National Army 201st Corps.
With each accomplishment, the Afghans achieved a state of further independence, transitioning into a force capable of taking care of its country.
“I feel that we accomplished a lot, and got the ANA to a point where they can one day sustain themselves,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rick Murry, the training and education mentor.
Staff sections organized meetings that their Afghan counterparts quickly took over.
“I knew from my own experiences that any such meeting had to be Afghan National Security Forces driven from the beginning,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Cardone, an intelligence mentor with the Operational Coordination Center-Regional.
Through these meetings, the mentors were able to facilitate open discussion on topics such as training plans, logistical upkeep and military intelligence.
“Intelligence briefings have dramatically increased in quality of content and have improved ten-fold in overall presentation,” Cardone said.
From field artillery to mortar fire to advanced computer skills, the Afghan soldiers improved their skills with the assistance and guidance of the Oklahoma Guardsmen.
”The improvements that we have seen in the 201st Corps are a verifiable result of all that hard work,” Murry said.
Numerous construction projects were completed throughout eastern Afghanistan with the help and coordination of the engineering mentors.
“It can be very demanding and challenging at times, but the rewards is when you see the finished project that you help get started and oversee,” said Lt. Col. Michael Vickery, an engineer mentor with the Oklahoma-STT.
The Guardsmen will spend a few days at Bagram Air Field before heading back to Oklahoma to complete their demobilization process.
These warriors stood shoulder to shoulder with their Afghan friends every step of the way.
“Understand that the ANA can do things, build trust and understand their culture,” Murry said as his last bit of advice to the remaining mentors at FOB Gamberi.