In Afghanistan, Task Force Guam Provides Security for Mobile Strike Force

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CAMP PHOENIX, Afghanistan – Throughout Afghanistan, Task Force Guam Soldiers play a small yet vital role in the big picture of Afghan’s security future.

Such is the case at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul province, where a team from Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, does a professional job at supporting the Afghan National Army.

About a dozen Guam Guardsmen serve as guardian angels for civilian instructors, who in turn conduct extensive training on Mobile Strike Force Vehicles (MSFVs), a critical piece of equipment for ANA operations. 

[Staff Sgt. Erico M. Santos, center, NCO in charge of Headquarters-Headquarters Company’s squad at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan, points to a direction where troops are located to Lt. Col. Michael Tougher, commander, Task Force Guam, July 6 at Camp Blackhorse. Several Guam Army National Guardsmen from Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th  Infantry Regiment, are based at Blackhorse performing personal security details. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

In one of Afghanistan’s key institutions where ANA soldiers are trained, Guam Guardsmen inconspicuously fulfill their Operation Enduring Freedom requirements by protecting civilians from possible threats.

“This is important because of the combat continuity that this course provides the ANA,” said Capt. Gene Guerrero, HHC commander. “HHC’s guardian angel protection helps contractors and (Department of the Army) civilians focus on the students and teach the course instead of worrying about external threats, if any.”


[Sgt. Joey O. Flores, center, fire team leader for Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, updates and informs HHC first sergeant, 1st Sgt. John T. Johnson, left, and Capt. Gene Guerrero, HHC commander, July 6 on his team’s mission at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

This is a daily operation, Guerrero explained. His Soldiers spend hours a day within close distance of their principals, or somewhere about ANA’s Armored Branch School, site of hundreds of MSFVs. The school draws large amounts of ANA soldiers, who must complete an eight-week class of theoretical and practical MSFV training.

“This mission is important because now the Afghans have the lead in the security of their country and the Coalition Forces have the back seat,” Guerrero said. “These classes and these vehicles help them to secure a better Afghanistan.

The Guam Guardsmen understand that their mission supports Afghanistan’s security. Staff Sgt. Erico M. Santos, non-commissioned officer in charge of the group stationed at Camp Blackhorse, assures everyone has radio communication when performing their missions. Several tactical vehicles, occupied with a gunner and driver, are placed in strategic areas and situated in a manner that allows them to maneuver elsewhere if needed quickly.


[Pfc. Ken “Mojo” Mojica of Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, patrols an area July 6 of the Armored Branch School at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan. Mojica and a group of Soldiers provide security for civilian instructors who teach Afghan National Army soldiers on the Mobile Strike Force Vehicles (MSFVs) surrounding Mojica. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

The Guam Guardsmen also rotate throughout the compound on foot, keeping the perimeter in sight as well as inside classrooms and adjacent buildings.

“Our main focus is taking care of the guys who are doing their job securing the future of Afghanistan,” said Santos. “We’re trying to keep everything safe so they can concentrate on the training.”

Alfredo De Jesus, a civilian instructor and MSFV field service technician, stressed the importance of the Guam Soldiers’ mission.

“Having the Guam Soldiers providing security day in and out is very important for my co-workers and me. Without their support, we would not be able to perform our duties feeling secured.”

ANA participants receive multiple weeks of training on three different MSFVs. The first session is operator new equipment training and field level maintainer. The second session is a 10-week tactical training phase, followed by the final six-week consolidation phase.

[Staff Sgt. Erico M. Santos, noncommissioned officer in charge of Headquarters-Headquarters Company’s squad at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan, monitors his radio July 6 as members of his group provide security for civilian instructors at the Afghan National Army’s Armored Branch School in Kabul. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

“The goal for the Armored Branch School is to have the Afghans all trained to the point that by the start of training for the seventh Kandak (Special Operations unit), the Afghans will be self sustained and training themselves,” said John B. Simpson III, program manager, Afghanistan Operations and Logistics for Textron Marine and Land Systems.

“It’s a continuous effort to protect U.S. interests and personnel,” said 1st Sgt. John T. Johnson, of HHC. “There is a constant possibility of insider threats. In order to mitigate that threat we must provide constant force protection presence for our Soldiers and Civilians.

“It’s important for TF Guam because our personnel are conducting these missions. We contribute to the overall success of the NTM-A mission and to the great people of Afghanistan.”

 

[Pfc. Ken “Mojo” Mojica of Headquarters-Headquarters Company, 1-294th Infantry Regiment, Guam Army National Guard, maneuvers through Mobile Strike Force Vehicles (MSFVs) July 6 at the Afghan National Army’s Armored Branch School at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]

In May 2011, Textron Marine & Land Systems was awarded a full-rate production contract by the U.S. Army to supply 240 MSFVs for the ANA (Source: http://www.army-technology.com). The contract also includes the provision of related equipment, spares, field service and training.

The MSFV offers higher ballistic protection than mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, the website states. The vehicle is also equipped with innovative protection design features to achieve MRAP level of blast protection.  

 

  

[Staff Sgt. Erico M. Santos, background, noncommissioned officer in charge of Headquarters-Headquarters Company’s squad at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan, utilizes his scope to scan a sector of the Afghan National Army’s Armored Branch School at Camp Blackhorse, Kabul, Afghanistan. Pfc. James Nanguata, foreground, also scans the sector. (Army National Guard photo/Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)]