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    Behind the melons: Soldiers and Afghan Border Police build trust with local farmers



    Story by 1st Lt. Veronica Aguila 

    117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Hawaii)

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan – Enjoying a watermelon on a warm, sunny day is a familiar American memory. However, creating this memory while on patrols in southern Afghanistan is something few would expect.

    For soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, this fruitful opportunity is a result of the support shown by the Afghan Border Police for their mission in the Spin Boldak District. “That is really great on their [ABP] part to understand why we are out there and be able to support that for us,” said Capt. Lawrence Csaszar, the Alpha Company commander for 5-20th Inf. Regt.

    Csaszar recalled during one patrol requesting assistance from the ABP to meet local farmers and villagers for an economic and agricultural assessment by the U.S. Agency for International Development. The ABP checkpoint commander led them to a nearby farm where they were introduced to local farmers and villagers. Patrols to ABP-manned checkpoints are one part of Alpha Company’s mission. Another is escorting special civilian and military teams for village assessments.

    With the ABP checkpoint leader’s support, soldiers and USAID representatives interacted with the farmers and received a surprise invitation to try watermelon and cucumbers from their crop. Meanwhile, policemen went into the village to gather people for a meeting, also referred to as a shura. As villagers gathered, the farmers joined the shura with USAID, soldiers and the ABP to discuss the various issues in the village.

    “The shura itself worked out very well,” said Csaszar. “It was good to see the checkpoint commander there right in the midst of things with us. It’s what we call a unified command team … all the key players sitting down together discussing issues.” Approximately 40 villagers participated in the shura.

    “It was definitely different,” said 1st Lt. Adam Losey, platoon leader with Alpha Company. “We are not used to seeing that many people. The villages we experienced before you never got groups of more than 10-12.” Losey’s platoon works with ABP to provide security in the surrounding area.

    After visiting multiple checkpoints and getting to know the policemen Losey realized many ABP are from Spin Boldak. Knowing the area makes all the difference, he said. According to Losey, he can ask the ABP, “hey can you go talk to this guy,” and the response he receives is, “that’s so and so, let me introduce you.”

    For Csaszar, this environment is a sign of progress.

    Successes like these can only be achieved through genuine shared partnerships and by going out, sitting down and talking, said Csaszar. The Soldiers who go on these patrols are committed to doing things right with the Afghan National Security Forces – despite what people may read about increased green-on-blue attacks, he added.

    “They know that we are here and that we are willing to listen,” he continued. “We didn’t walk away with any promises. What we did walk away with was a higher level of partnership and cooperation with ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], ANSF and the local population.”



    Date Taken: 10.13.2012
    Date Posted: 10.22.2012 10:43
    Story ID: 96549
    Location: SPIN BOLDAK, AF 

    Web Views: 308
    Downloads: 3