Mentoring mission ends as soldiers make their way home

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July 20th, 2011

Omaha, NE – Several hundred Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers are on their way home from Afghanistan. They return after nearly a year of helping train Afghan forces to better secure their own country.

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Near a village outside Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, the Nebraska Army National Guard’s 1st squadron, 134th Cavalry spends time searching for signs of insurgent activity. The patrolled village had been a Taliban stronghold, but is now considered neutral.

Working with the Nebraska soldiers are Afghan security forces, police and army. Men and women Nebraska soldiers have been mentoring during their time in Afghanistan. With the departure of the 1-134th Cavalry comes the end of U.S. soldiers mentoring Kabul-area security forces, a result of the U.S. military draw down in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st class Christopher Kidd (left) and 1st Sgt. Richard Aldag (right) walk the streets with Afghan police. (Photo courtesy NE Army National Guard)

Lt. Col. Tom Rynders of Bellevue and commander of the 1-134th Cavalry said the police and the army that are doing the security missions here in Kabul will truly be on their own after they leave.

“In my view, I think they are ready,” Rynder said. “We’re at a point now where we have to let them take control and show the rest of the world that they are capable to do their jobs and they don’t need to rely on coalition or U.S. mentors to look over their shoulder to be sure they’re doing things right.”

“They’re not gonna be perfect, or they’re not gonna be as efficient and effective as a U.S. police force,” he said, “or another maybe first world country security force, but yeah, I think they’re ready here in Kabul.”

Rynder made his way around to numerous districts to hear first-hand what the responses of the police chiefs would be.

“It was kind of a wide range,” he said. “But it’s a thank you for all you’ve done and we’re gonna be sorry to see you go, all the way to you know, please don’t leave because things are going to become more dangerous here, and the insurgents will know that you’re leaving and will plan more attacks. And even some that were in disbelief.”

The end of the mentoring mission has also left some feelings of unfinished business among the Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers who have worked closely with Afghan police officers and soldiers for several months.

“Whether it was some training that we have ongoing with them,” Rynders said, “or some…construction projects at some of the police district headquarters or some of the Afghan National Army compounds that are still ongoing…”

Rynders added, “I think a lot of the mentor teams would have probably felt better if we did have another unit come behind us to ensure that those are seen through to completion. But again, it’s you get back to the point to, how do you end this? And at what point do you end it? And there probably could never be a clean break of everything and saying 100 percent mission accomplished. Absolutely nothing more to do here.”

Rynders said there were plenty of accomplishments. Four thousand Afghan police officers and soldiers mentored by soldiers from the 1-134th Cavalry. More than 70 building projects managed, things like new schools and medical clinics. Hundreds of tons of food, clothing and other supplies delivered to Afghan villages. And returning home safe and sound may be the most important part of mission accomplished for the soldiers of the 1-134th Cavalry.

You can visit this link to watch the 1-134th Cavalry working with Afghan security forces.

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