The Vermont National Guard's 172nd Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, Echo Company, Distribution Platoon, from Morrisville, Vt., hasn't had much time to settle in to its mission since arriving at Forward Operating Base Lightning, Paktya province, Afghanistan.
After less than a month at FOB Lightning, the unit has already run more than ten missions hauling invaluable supplies to FOBs all across Paktya province. While they are constantly adjusting to last-minute changes prior to missions, the Soldiers of the Distribution Platoon still find time to take pride in helping Soldiers at remote outposts and focus on their ultimate goal: partnering with the Afghan National Security Force to protect the Afghan people.
The Soldiers of Distribution Platoon have transported everything from building supplies and concrete barriers to pallets of bottled water. They often do not know exactly what they will be carrying until just prior to a mission. It was not until the night before a recent mission that the Soldiers learned they would be hauling two pallets of bottled water to FOB Don Baton. Without missing a beat, they quickly added an extra vehicle and two personnel to their convoy and were ready to go on time the next morning.
"We've brought everything we were supposed to bring," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kenneth L. Smith of Hyde Park, Vt., a vehicle operator and section leader with the unit. "With just 10 missions there are still people learning the system, who needs to report to whom to tell what supplies need to be brought. There's been last minute things in every mission we've done, but we've been able to fit everything we've had to on a load."
In addition to always completing their mission in a fluid operating environment, the members of Distribution Platoon take pride in delivering not only essential supplies such as bottled water to small outposts, but comfort items as well.
"It's cool when we roll in and those guys really appreciate what we do for them. They've shown us a lot of respect and understand what we do," said U.S. Army Pfc. Michael A. Tatro of Hardwicke, Vt., a vehicle operator with the platoon. "When we bring mail, guys also really appreciate it because for a lot of us, getting mail and care packages keeps us going."
In conjunction with their devotion to the Soldiers they provide support to is the desire of the platoon members to work with the ANSF to protect the Afghan people and provide them with a better future.
"We see our mission partnering with the ANSF, and we see nothing but a successful forward movement towards them being able to secure their own nation," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Shawn M. Warren of San Tan Valley, Ariz., an infantryman and dismount squad leader with the unit. "We want to see the Afghan people take their country back so we can head home, and hopefully we created another partner."