During this deployment, the focus of our security platoon has been to provide protection for supply convoys and for immediate response and support for recovery missions. A recent assignment that I participated in was to provide security and protection for a team of civil engineers that was surveying a fifty mile section of unimproved road from Sangin to the Kajaki Dam.
One of the ways that the U.S. military's mission has improved the daily lives of many Afghans is by building roads and making travel from one village to another easier. These new roads allow for better commerce and transportation of agricultural products, the opportunity for children to travel to schools in nearby villages and for a break in the isolation that so many Afghans have had for many years.
Building roads where only dirt pathways existed before is a daunting challenge, but many coalition countries have contributed funds and resources to transform these dusty and muddy dirt paths into paved roads. This has greatly enhanced transportation, whether by motorcycle, truck, car, donkey, bicycle, or foot.
One of the first steps in this process is for engineers to physically walk these miles of unimproved roads, making observations about drainage problems, taking pictures and measurements and starting the process of making cost and material estimations. Most of the area where these roads are located has been a Taliban stronghold in recent years. Because the only way that the engineers can make accurate estimations and recordings is by actually walking the roads, it is crucial that they be protected from small arms fire, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDS) and even the crowds of curious onlookers used to military convoys just speeding by without slowing down.
The process of walking 50 miles of road took over a week. We had an interpreter with us to assist in communicating to the Afghans what our mission was and how they would benefit from the road improvements. Our interpreter reassured the local communities that the improvements would be at no cost to them and that they would not be taxed on the improvements.
Despite all of our efforts to ensure safety and security from the Taliban for the rural communities in Helmand Province, our military presence still arouses distrust among the Afghans. Our goal is to demonstrate to the Afghan people that the U.S. and coalition countries have a commitment to improve their quality of life. Hopefully, as that happens, we will win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.
I have traveled hundreds of miles through Helmand Province in the past five months. It is clear to me that the only way that our efforts to bring lasting stability and peace to the Afghans will hold is to continue to help them improve their infrastructure and educational systems.
I hope you and your readers enjoy seeing these pictures from this recent mission. As our country begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be part of our effort to bring peace to this war-torn country. I am hopeful that the positive contributions of our forces, bolstered by large numbers of military members from southwest Wisconsin, will eventually make life both safer and better for people in Afghanistan, the United States, the coalition countries, and ultimately, worldwide.
Editor's note: Sgt. Calvin Gatch III, Platteville, is attached to the General Support Motor Transport Company. His platoon within that company is the Immediate Response Team Platoon. He has periodically been supplying The Platteville Journal with updates of the work being done in Afghanistan.