Soldiers make difference training in Afghanistan

Soldiers make difference training in Afghanistan
ROBAT, Afghanistan – Since their arrival in country on June 9, the soldiers of the 147th Field Artillery, South Dakota Army National Guard, have been embedded within the Afghan National Army at the corps, brigade and battalion level to help train and mentor the various assigned staff sections in garrison and combat environments.

"Wherever the ANA go – so go the officers and NCOs of the 147th Field Artillery Brigade," said Capt. Jason K. Piercy.

Piercy is a member of the 147th Field Artillery Brigade out of Sioux Falls and is currently assigned as an intelligence officer for the 41st Brigade Combat Team, 203rd Regional Corps Advisory Group in Gardez.

"In a nut shell, we teach them how to build, train, staff, equip, plan and maintain a formidable army that in the future will be capable of defending its own borders with no U.S. help," said Piercy, who's unit is serving one year in the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Piercy, of Sioux Falls, said his unit's mission is not to teach the ANA how to fight as they are very proficient tactically and show no fear in combat. The focus is to teach the ANA leadership how to synchronize all the elements of combat power in order to achieve a more coordinated effort.

Recently, Capt. Piercy participated in a health assistance visit to the village of Robat. The unit handed out food, cooking stoves, blankets, wheelbarrows and first-aid supplies. His unit is also building a boys' and girls' school in the village.

"There were about 200 little kids that bum rushed me when I handed out big bags of Jolly Rancher candy," said Piercy. "They about lost their minds when we opened the trunks of the hummers and started handing out soccer balls."

Because the South Dakota team has demonstrated the ability to perform at high levels within the Afghan military organization, the unit is dispersed to several locations in the country to fill critical mentorship positions, said Piercy.

The South Dakota soldiers are located in Gardez in the Paktya Province, Khowst located in the Khowst Province, Sharona in the Paktika Province and Mazar-e Sharif in the Balkh Province.

"Our mission is important because this country has a real opportunity to get ahead," said Piercy. "The people of this country have been fighting wars for as long as they can remember and they are tired – it shows in their faces."

The National Guard officer said that not only is his unit training the Afghan Army, but they are helping to build up the infrastructure by drilling wells, building schools for the Afghan youth and building medical clinics.

"In villages where we provide these items we have no problems from the Taliban," said Piercy. "The locals will not condone their behavior."

According to Piercy, the National Guard in many ways is the driving force here in the reconstruction effort.

"We train the Army and just like back in the states we take the lead on clearing and rebuilding local areas," he said.

One of the most rewarding experiences for Piercy was when he was able to participate in an operation that uncovered a Taliban weapons depot that led to the confiscation of 116 rocket-propelled grenades.

"This is 116 less RPGs that will be fired at the ANA and or U.S. forces," he said. "This type of operation really shows that the ANA is making great strides towards being able to stand on their own."

Although the members of the 147th Field Artillery are staying busy, there is still time to think of home.

"I miss my wife the most," said Piercy. "You don't know what you really have until you have to be 7,000 plus miles away."

Capt. Piercy said he believes that the midwest work ethic and National Guard drive to see a project to completion shows the ANA that the U.S. forces are sincere in their efforts.

Piercy wanted to thank fellow National Guard members for fixing his sump pump and helping his wife with all things mechanical back at home in Sioux Falls. In addition to his family and the National Guard, he said one of the biggest supporters during the deployment has been his employer, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and Attorney General's office.

"Their numerous e-mails, letters, and care packages make the time go a little faster."

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