Saturday, April 16, 2011

Soldier Integrates Afghan Operations

By Army Spc. Adam L. Mathis
17th Public Affairs Detachment
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 14, 2011 - The screen at the head of the two tables in the operational coordination center here displayed statistics about coalition and insurgent activities in the area. Members of the Afghan security forces listened as one of their countrymen briefed the data.
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Army Lt. Col. Larry Daley listens during a conference with members of the Afghan national security forces April 5, 2011, at the operational coordination center in Afghanistan's Wardak province. Daley coordinates the efforts of Afghan forces in the province. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Adam L. Mathis 
Seated quietly at the table, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Larry Daley listened to his interpreter translate the fruits of his team's labors.
Daley says his job as senior U.S. advisor for the operational coordination center here is the future of the coalition presence in Afghanistan. The Preston, Minn., native, who is attached to the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot, has worked since November to foster better cooperation among the Afghan security forces components in Wardak province and to improve their ability to handle security.
Daley's position in Wardak came about by order of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who established the a system of operational coordination centers in Afghanistan's provinces. Originally, the centers coordinated efforts related to elections and natural disasters, but they worked too well to stay within such narrow parameters, Daley said.
"It has evolved into a way that all of the entities of the Afghan national security forces can be integrated for operations and have a unity of effort in securing the population," said Army Lt. Col. Michael Kelley of Newnan, Ga., the coalition's regional operational coordination center commander for southern Afghanistan and senior advisor.
The coalition presence in the centers is in an advisory capacity, Kelley said, helping the Afghan security forces work together and share information, he said.
Brig. Gen. Muhammad Daood, an Afghan army officer who serves as regional operational coordination center commander for the south, said he is encouraged by the growth of cooperation among Afghan forces in his area. "I hope one day we'll be able to provide security in the whole province," he said through an interpreter.
To get there means a lot of drinking for Daley. "A lot of late-night chai sessions is how you get it done," he said.
Chai, or tea, is a means of overcoming a problem that sometimes shows up in organizations: a lack of communication. The various branches of Afghan forces have not been sharing the data they collect in Wardak, Daley said, noting that that the U.S. military was no different before the 1980s. Before congressional action forced jointness on the services, he explained, each U.S. service had its own set of data and did not necessarily share it with the others.
Daley said drinking tea, a ubiquitous custom in Afghanistan, helps him to develop personal relationships. By establishing friendships and respect among the representatives of the Afghan security forces branches, he added, he is able to improve cooperation.
"Maybe the organizations don't really care for each other a whole lot, but if, as individuals, we can get along, we can make things work," Daley said. "It's something you've got to work at every day. If you're not working at it every day, you're probably going backwards."
Daley recently began teaching Afghan personnel how to analyze data and ask what is causing those statistics. The result, he said, was a desire on the part of some Afghans to learn more.
"We're getting there," he said. "It's just taking time to make them sit down and think through very complex problems."
Related Sites:
NATO International Security Assistance Force 

Blogger Interviews First Lady, Dr. Biden

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 13, 2011 - Yesterday, I attended a briefing at the White House in which the nation's top leaders announced a national campaign that aims to bring together every sector of this nation -– from individuals and communities to businesses and nonprofits -– to support and honor service members and their families.
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Elaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service reporter and Family Matters blogger, interviews First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden at the White House, April 6, 2011. DOD photo by Linda Hosek.
Speaking to a packed crowd of government officials, troops and their families, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden each expressed their enduring admiration and gratitude for military families and their excitement at launching the "Joining Forces" campaign.
Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with the first lady and Dr. Biden in an interview at the White House to discuss this initiative and what sparked them to create it. I've been an admirer of their family-support efforts for some time, and was excited that I had the chance to sit down with them one on one at such a pivotal time.
Seated side by side, they told me they created this campaign to raise awareness of military families and the level of sacrifice they make, and to ensure they're offered the support and care they deserve.
Many Americans are unaware of the challenges military families face daily, they said. This is compounded by the fact that military families, accustomed to exhibiting strength and resilience, often won't ask for support.
Obama and Biden would like to create a nation that offers that support in abundance so families never again have to request it.
"I hope we never ever have again a military family who says, ... 'I just don't think Americans appreciate what we do,'" Biden said. "I want them to know and feel they're appreciated."
Through the campaign, Obama and Biden will call on every sector of society to take action to ensure troops and their families have the support they need and deserve. They already have numerous commitments, they said, ranging from the corporate world to the entertainment industry to government agencies.
"This campaign is about renewing those bonds and those connections between those who serve and the rest of those who live free because of their service," the first lady said.
Today, Obama and Biden embarked on a two-day tour of the nation to spotlight America's efforts to support military families and to provide examples for others to follow. At each stop they'll ask Americans: "How can I give back to these families who are giving me so much?"
I'll be traveling to Columbus, Ohio, tomorrow to attend one of their family-support events. Check back here for my coverage of that event.
In the meantime, for more on my interview with Obama and Biden, read my American Forces Press Service article, "First Lady, Dr. Biden to Shine Light on Military Families." For more on yesterday's announcement, see "White House Urges All Americans to 'Do Something'" and "Military Family Support a 'National Priority,' Obama says." To find out more about the campaign, visit the Joining Forces website.
For more on Family Matters, visit the blog, or check out Family Matters on Facebook or Twitter.

Click photo for screen-resolution imageElaine Sanchez, American Forces Press Service reporter and Family Matters blogger, poses with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden after their interview at the White House, April 6, 2011. DOD photo by Linda Hosek
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Call to honor service members and their families

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, speaks, April 12, 2011, at the White House launch of 'Joining Forces,' a national initiative that calls on all sectors of society to join forces to support and honor service members and their families, Addressing family members, Biden said, "You are all heroes -- from the moms and dads who keep your families together while your loved ones are serving overseas, to the grandparents who step in with much needed support, to the children who are stro DOD photo by Linda Hosek
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