Fort Polk-based regiment observing, mentoring Afghan National Army

By 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.