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Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

Your View: Something greater

Thursday, January 31, 2008

This morning, sixteen Soldiers arose from their bunks at 0500, donned their Army Combat Uniform, assisted one another putting on multiple pieces of body armor weighing approximately 55 pounds, grabbed their weapons and headed out of the barracks to conduct a tactical road march. This type of training even occurred across the United States on military installations from coast to coast, but the training event is not the reason I have chosen to write this article.

The training event this morning involved a very diverse group of Soldiers with a very important mission. These Soldiers are part of a Military Transition Team that will deploy in December to Helmand Province, Afghanistan and I am honored to be serving as one of its members.

While attending counterinsurgency training this afternoon, the topic of accurate media coverage regarding the ongoing operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan was discussed. Not a very big surprise, most military members voiced frustration with the negative picture presented within current media sources regarding the impact our military services have made and continue to make each day in both countries. The type of mission which I am currently involved is proof of the increasingly positive headway we are making.

Unlike many of the conventional units that are currently engaged in combat operations overseas, the mission of a Military Transition Team is very unique. While many units within our military's history have returned from conflicts overseas with a "war" story; our mission is to succeed in accomplishing a "peace" story. Our team is one of hundreds of transition teams that will deploy this year to Afghanistan to assist in the development and mentorship of the Afghanistan National Army.

Over the past few months the country has been focused on Gen. David Petraeus' current assessments and military strategies for both the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. The recent media coverage has focused on the perceived slow pace of improvement and surge in Taliban and Al Qaeda activity within Afghanistan.

A key component of the new strategy to defeat this insurgency is building the Afghanistan Security Forces composed primarily of the Afghanistan National Army and the local Afghanistan National Police. Transition teams are the Army's answer to improving the capability of the security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

My team will soon join the ranks of thousands of Soldiers conducting this mission, and we'll spend a year with an Afghanistan National Army Brigade. We will live, eat, sleep and fight with our Afghanistan counterparts to help them establish security in their country while simultaneously increasing the security of our own.

My team is composed of 16 talented Officers, senior Noncommissioned Officers or sergeants and two enlisted Soldiers of various specialties and backgrounds. All but three members of our team have previously deployed to the Middle East, and all are experts in their field.

The Soldiers come from a mix of combat arms, communications, logistics, maintenance, intelligence and medical fields in the Army. We will complete our training in a few weeks which has prepared us for our role as advisors. Our team has adopted the name "Wolf Pack." Establishing a team name is not important just because at the heart of every Soldier is a little boy playing Army in the woods as a child, but because each military unit is required to possess call signs for identification.

The training here at Fort Riley, while not easy, was not the most challenging part of the curriculum. Weapon qualification, medical classes, training on infantry tactics and physical training to get our team prepared to deploy was easy. As career Soldiers and Army leaders, we are used to this environment. We all know how to prepare ourselves both mentally and physically to endure the difficult operating environment, and extreme temperatures of the area to which we are about to deploy.

In addition, due to the seniority of our ranks, most of us are married with children and are intimately aware of the immense sacrifices it takes to wear this uniform, but continue to willingly do so. On some level each Soldier desires the same life story, to be part of something greater collectively, than we could ever achieve as individuals. This desire epitomizes the idea embodied within the Soldiers Creed.

The most difficult part of the training was learning about the Afghanistan language and culture. Discovering how Islam is so completely absorbed in their society, the supreme importance of personal relationships, and reverence for extended family are all concepts that were incredibly interesting, but complicated at the same time and immensely important to the advisor mission. In addition, learning a new language whether Dari or Pashto has also been challenging.

A hallmark requirement of the counterinsurgency mission is to work "by, with and through" the organization in which you are advising. In order to succeed in this mission, it is paramount that we understand intimately both the insurgent enemy and the innocent indigenous population who in this case are the Afghanistan people.

I will not pretend to be an all knowing politician or an arm chair military philosopher; I am simply a Soldier and lifelong student of the human condition. However, this is what I do know: after extensively studying the history, culture and current living conditions of the people of Afghanistan I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of something greater than myself and provide a sense of hope to a group of people that have not been afforded even a glimpse of hope in a very long time.

I will, along with my Wolf Pack brothers-in-arms, once again miss birthdays, holidays, ballgames and bedtime stories. My spouse will once again be both mother and father to my boys during my absence. These are the sacrifices of today's Soldier and military family and this article is my attempt to provide a Soldier's perspective on the situation in Afghanistan.

It is my hope to adequately convey our teams' experiences and the status of your Army's mission within the confines of a small area of the world in Southern Afghanistan over the next year.

Capt. Anthony Wilson

Editors note: Capt. Anthony Wilson is the son of Terry and Vickie Wilson, formerly of the East Prairie/Anniston area. He is a 1992 graduate of Warren East High School, a 2000 graduate of Kansas State University, a 2006 graduate of Western Kentucky University and a career Army officer. He can be reached at anthony.wilson4@us.army.mil.