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The voice of Lyons Township High School students for more than 100 years

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North Campus

November 18, 2011 n Volume 102, Issue 3

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Service. Sacrifice. As Iowa guards see firsthand, stability in Afghanistan is still years away

Saturday with the Iowa National Guard Troop B 1-113 Cav Spc Shane Taylor of Slater provides security during a patrol through Parwan Province in RODNEY WHITE the mountains outside Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

by John Doe Staff Reporter

T

he promise and challenges of America’s efforts in Afghanistan were on display here on a mid-March after-

noon. First came the promise, in the form of a canny Afghan National Army officer named Pallawana. The fierce-looking platoon commander has uncovered numerous caches of Taliban rifles, ammunition, land mines and explosives. He often leads his 110 soldiers on joint patrols with the Iowa National Guard through towns that used to be dominated by insurgent fighters. The Taliban fear him, and the local people respect him, the Iowans say. Residents of nearby villages routinely tell him what the —insurgents are up to. Soldiers like Pallawana are the key to the U.S. goal of handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, said Capt. Michael Minard, who leads the Iowa Guard company that shares Combat Outpost Rahman Kheyl with Pallawana’s men. Pallawana, a first lieutenant who uses one name, said the Afghan army has four times more soldiers in this turbulent province than it had three years ago. The troops are also much better trained and more experienced than they used to be, he said. But the Afghan soldiers still are developing, and their problems include men who desert when spring brings more job opportunities and higher risks of fighting. The Afghan soldiers are far from ready to take on the insurgents by themselves, the lieutenant said. “Right now,”

Iowa National Guard Troop B 1-113 Cav Sgt. Brad McKinney of LeMars checks his GPS unit while providing security while on patrol in the Parwan Province near Bagram Airfield Saturday afternoon. RODNEY WHITE

he said through an interpreter, “the Taliban are better than we are.” The lieutenant said the police forces are improving, “but they’re still nowhere near what you’d expect from police officers in the United States.” TeKippe takes heart from the fact that most

Afghan children - including girls - are now in school, and he believes Afghanistan will be stabilized eventually. “I’d rather get it taken care of now than have my kids have to come back

More National Guard Coverage inside (p. 2)

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100 S. Brainard Ave LaGrange, Ill. 60525

More National Guard Coverage inside (p. 2)

South Campus 4900 Willow Springs Rd. Western Springs, Ill. 60558


NEWS

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Friday, November 18, 2011  Page 2

{

IOWA NATIONAL GUARD coverage continued from page 1

}

THE ROAD AHEAD SUCCESS STILL FAR OFF GOAL

ILLITERACY SEEN AS MAJOR OBSTACLE

RETURNEES NOTICE MAJOR DIFFERENCE

TRICKY LOGISTICS

Many of the trucks are driven by private contractors, who have to be compensated for the risk they face from insurgents’ bombs. Also, the mountain roads’ ruts slow traffic to a crawl and cause truck breakdowns. Perkins, one of the Iowa National Guard’s leading experts on logistics, said that costs are especially high in Afghanistan because it is such an undeveloped country. For example, he said, almost no local water is considered safe to drink, so military trucks must carry in pallet after pallet of bottled water. “Shipping bottled water is probably the least efficient way to ship water,” but it is the only alternative in most circumstances, Perkins said.

The country has no seaport and almost no railroads. “Everything has to come a long way by truck, or it has to come in by air,” said Lt. Col. John Perkins of Johnston.

MRAPS

The country has no seaport and almost no railroads. “Everything has to come a long way by truck, or it has to come in by air,” said Lt. Col. John Perkins of Johnston.

Many of the trucks are driven by private contractors, who have to be compensated for the risk they face from insurgents’ bombs. Also, the mountain roads’ ruts slow traffic to a crawl and cause truck breakdowns.

MAINTENANCE

HYDRATION

TRANSPORTATION

It costs roughly $1 million to keep a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan for a year—an astounding figure until you see the way supplies are distributed and services are procured.

Perkins, one of the Iowa National Guard’s leading experts on logistics, said that costs are especially high in Afghanistan because it is such an undeveloped country. For example, he said, almost no local water is considered safe to drink, so military trucks must carry in pallet after pallet of bottled water. “Shipping bottled water is probably the least efficient way to ship water,” but it is the only alternative in most circumstances, Perkins said.


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NEWS

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{IN-DEPTH LOOK }

AFGHANISTAN: THE INSIDE SCOOP SUCCESS STILL FAR AWAY

American soldiers know they can’t bring peace to Afghanistan by themselves. Long-term stability depends on whether Afghan soldiers and police can become strong enough to handle most duties. That’s why improving the local forces is the top goal of the 2,800 Iowa Guard troops and other U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan. Iowa Guard soldiers, from the infantry grunts to the top commanders, see progress. But they say success is a long way off. U.S. soldiers sometimes joke about their Afghan counterparts’ tardiness or seeming lack of discipline. They also note the Afghans’ courage. While American troops rarely leave their bases without the protection of million-dollar armored trucks, the Afghans routinely ride in the open beds of Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger pickups. Some Afghan units have been given hand-medown U.S. Humvees with armor to protect against roadside bombs. But those heavy vehicles usually remain parked, because the Afghans prefer the speed and agility of their little pickups.

ILLITERACY SEEN AS PROBLEM Second Lt. Brian TeKippe, 31, of Waukee, helps lead a military police unit that is part of the Iowa Guard’s 1-113th Cavalry Squadron in Parwan province. He said illiteracy is one of the biggest hurdles to training Afghan soldiers and police. Only 28 percent of Afghan adults are considered literate, compared with 74 percent of Iraqi adults and 99 percent of U.S. adults. Conventional military training relies on books, maps, diagrams and PowerPoint presentations, which many Afghan men struggle to decipher. “And to try to teach them how to write a police report? It’s impossible,” TeKippe said. He said corruption remains “readily evident” among the local police. Junior officers tell him their superiors often demand regular payments in return for jobs. To raise money for those payments, TeKippe said, the officers shake down civilians they stop at roadblocks. The lieutenant said the police forces are improving, “but they’re still nowhere near what you’d expect from police officers in the United States.” TeKippe takes heart from the fact that most Afghan children - including girls - are now in school, and he believes Afghanistan will be stabilized eventually. “I’d rather get it taken care of now than have my kids have to come back here and do the same thing in 20 years,” he said.

RETURNEES SEE CHANGE

Several hundred Iowa troops have extra insight on the situation, because they served a year in Afghanistan in 2004-05, and they’re back for a second deployment. Staff Sgt. Jesse Ross, 39, of Des Moines, helps lead 1-113th Cavalry patrols out of an outpost, said Afghan forces are much more effective now than they were before. “I don’t want to say they were bungling idiots back then, but they weren’t well-trained,” he said. Back then, he said, Afghan police often came along on his unit’s humanitarian missions, but they were rudderless. “We would have to micromanage them. We’d have to tell them, ‘Stand here, do this, manage the crowd this way,’ “ he recalled. “Now, you just tell them what you want, and they can pretty much do it for you, with just a little direction.” When asked how long it would be before Afghan soldiers and police could take primary responsibility for their country’s security, the staff sergeant stared at the floor for a few seconds, considering how he should answer. “After the last time I was here, I said it would be 100 years,” he said. “This time, with how far they’ve advanced, I’d say 25 years.” Ross said he believes everyday Afghans are weary of war, and they must see that the insurgents cause far more civilian casualties than the Americans and their allies cause. He predicts the Taliban will run out of support. “I think we’re winning this, I really do,” he said. “But if we walked out tomorrow, things would probably collapse.”

For more National Guard coverage, including photos, please visit www.lionnewspaper.com.

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