News: With Hawaii Army Guard mentoring, Afghan forces take independent strides
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - A Security Forces Assistance Team comprised primarily of Hawaii Army Guard’s 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers assisted in a successful partnered operation that included personnel from the Afghanistan Border Police, the Afghanistan National Army and the Afghanistan Civil Order Police Dec. 10-12. The team of Hawaii Guardsmen served mostly as spectators, however, as the Afghan forces operated independently during the mission tabbed Southern Fist II.
SFATs are comprised of military specialists in fields including infantry, special weapons and tactics, explosive ordinance disposal, communications, and logistics. SFAT Team No. 61, nicknamed Shaka 27, is one of 16 SFATs comprised of soldiers from Hawaii currently deployed in southern Afghanistan. About 10 percent of the 2,000 soldiers in the 29th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed in November to comprise the 16 SFAT teams.
The operation Shaka 27 assisted with was groundbreaking.
“The mission was the first of its kind that involved strictly independent ground operation by Afghan National Security Forces. Normally, coalition forces are on the ground with the Afghans; however, this time the ANSF conducted the operation all by themselves, marking a significant advancement in their capabilities” said Maj. Paul Agena, the team’s commander.
Shaka 27 mentored and advised the ANCOP’s SWAT team in advance of Southern Fist II and assisted with the insertion and extraction of the myriad Afghan forces that participated in the clearance operation. The ANCOP SWAT team is mentored by policemen from the Honolulu Police Department’s SWAT team.
Shaka 27 flew with its Afghan counterparts via four CH-47s Chinooks on Dec. 10 to begin the mission in the vicinity of Shor Bak, Afghanistan. Once on the ground, the team reviewed the operation with their ANCOP police counterparts one final time as the mission began and then Shaka 27 left them to conduct the clearance independently.
On Dec. 12, Shaka 27 and a special operations team returned to the Shor Bak area early in the morning to secure and set up a pick-up zone, conduct patrols, and reunite with the Afghan forces.
The border police and army were at the site and were safely recovered. The ANCOP’s SWAT decided to stay out one extra day on the operation.
A day later, the ANCOP SWAT team returned safely to an Afghan forces checkpoint with five Taliban insurgents and two recoilless rifles in custody.
“The mission was extremely successful and shows the ability of the ANSF to learn from our mentoring and advising and to execute their missions independently,” said Capt. Brent Nakasone, Shaka 27’s executive officer.
Shaka 27 and the other 15 Hawaii Guard SFAT teams are set to continue advising and assisting Afghan forces in Kandahar and Zabul provinces through summer 2013.