Vt. Guard mission meeting with success - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Guard mission meeting with success

Col. Will Roy Col. Will Roy

Landakhel, Afghanistan - June 9, 2010

The Vermont Guard's mission in Afghanistan is meeting with success, but their commander warns against complacency in the months ahead. WCAX News asked Col. Will Roy for an update on the mission involving 1,500 members of the guard. They are now halfway through their year-long deployment and have been in-country for three months. The colonel says so far his troops and their Afghan counterparts are performing well.

"The mission is going great," Roy said.

The mission of the 86th Brigade involves daily combat patrols. The Vermonters' mission is to protect civilians from insurgents and to train Afghan units to do that job themselves.

"The ability of our partners increases almost daily," Roy said. "Truly exceptional young men and women who are there serving in the uniform to help give their country this great chance at a future."

Most of the Vermont troops are based at Bagram airfield outside of Kabul. The base came under attack last month. The Vermonters led the defense, which resulted in 18 insurgents killed and five captured. Five Vermonters were wounded in the battle.

"In the end it was an extremely futile attempt to break into an extremely secure base," Roy said.

Some critics saw the attack as evidence of growing Taliban influence, but Roy says the insurgents have no foothold in the area. He shared a story about a local man who approached the base with a gun soon after the failed attack. "And he walked up to the front gate and turned around and sat down and when we asked him what was going on he said, nobody was going to attack Bagram again while he was here."

Roy says the support of civilians is also seen in remote areas, like in the Kohe Safi District of Parwan province. Vermont soldiers are meeting with village elders there to gain their trust and cooperation.

"If we can secure Kohe Safi, the rest of Parwan will be secure."

Col. Roy says the outreach is paying dividends.

"In one particular village, the villagers were actually pointing out where the insurgents were hiding to us," he said. "So the ANP and our soldiers were able to capture them."

Despite the success so far, Roy cautions the second half of the deployment will be challenging, especially as soldiers long for home.

"The key is to stay focused on mission and on task," Roy said. "To make sure that we don't get complacent in what we're doing day to day."

The colonel says overall, morale remains very high amongst the Vermont troops. Many have had the opportunity to come home on leave, which has helped. But with six months in-country to go, he acknowledges it will be harder for soldiers to remain focused. And of course, the concern is that when focus lapses that's when people get hurt.

Fortunately, not many people have gotten hurt so far. About a dozen Vermonters in the task force have been wounded. Some serious enough to require hospitalization back home. But no members of the 86th Brigade have been killed during this deployment. And Col. Roy says no civilians have been killed in any of their operations.

We should note that our interview with Col. Roy was conducted by submitting written questions which were asked on camera by a member of the guard's public affairs staff.

Roger Garrity - WCAX News

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