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Staff Sgt. John Henington, platoon sergeant, Battery B, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. (Fort Polk Guardian / Special to the American Press)<br>

Staff Sgt. John Henington, platoon sergeant, Battery B, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. (Fort Polk Guardian / Special to the American Press)

Fort Polk-based regiment observing, mentoring Afghan National Army

Last Modified: Saturday, August 03, 2013 7:40 PM

By Sgt. 1st Class E.L. Craig / Special to the American Press

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The Battery B, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, force protection team is observing and mentoring the Afghan National Army and its security forces at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.

They are a long way from home: The Fort Polk-based regiment is part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. Staff Sgt. John Henington said the force protection mission plays a vital part in the Afghan mentoring at FOB Gamberi.

“Force protection is crucial to the advise-and-assist mission because it creates a secure location in which leaders can engage in training and planning. We take our security seriously and can respond to any threat at a moment’s notice,” said Henington, adding that the force protection team’s role in the mission does not stop at providing a safe environment.

He said having a solid force protection element on FOB Gamberi also enables Afghan National Army commanders operating there to see what the U.S. Army does and trains Afghan troops to secure areas of importance and respond to threats against the FOB.

Their work begins early. Before these soldiers go on duty they are briefed on any notable actions that have occurred in 24 hours before their shift as well as all authorized response measures. The briefing is not all talk, however; leaders also inspect the soldiers’ gear and weapon systems to make sure they are ready for use should the need arise.

“We keep our heads on a swivel, our eyes out for enemies and we make sure everyone is safe,” said Spc. Joseph Valente, a forward observer.

Valente said he and his team attribute their ability to stay alert during watch to their physical and mental discipline. “(You train for it) from day one in the Army, so it becomes easier to stay alert than it sounds,” he said.

This is Valente’s first force protection team mission, but he said he is glad to add it to his experience. He arrived to the force protection team a month before the unit deployed to Regional Command East, and he said the team has grown close in their time together.

“We’re all close — we have to be. We stand with each other up there on watch for eight hours a day, so we have to be close with everybody so you can trust them to watch your back as you watch theirs,” Valente said.

Henington said that allowing the ANA soldiers to implement some of his team’s techniques will help them increase security at other ANA FOBs throughout Afghanistan.

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