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Vermonters on patrol in Afghanistan - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vermonters on patrol in Afghanistan

Charikar, Afghanistan - August 3, 2010

Fifteen-hundred Vermont Guard members are deployed to Afghanistan and we now have a firsthand look at what they are experiencing. Anchor Darren Perron and photographer Lance MacKenzie are embedded with the troops for two weeks and just sent back video.

Reporter Kristin Carlson talked to Darren Tuesday afternoon via satellite. Kristin Carlson: Darren it's great to see and hear you, where are you exactly right now?

Darren Perron: Kristin, great to hear you, too. We are back at Bagram airfield tonight, in fact we are standing in front of a memorial that is really the whole reason we are here in Afghanistan to begin with. This is a memorial to 9/11 and one of the beams that is part of this memorial came directly from the World Trade Center.

Carlson: How many Vermont guard members are at Bagram airfield?

Perron: All told about 1,500 Vermont guard members are deployed to Afghanistan. About 1,000 or so are at Bagram airfield.

Carlson: How big is the airfield?

Perron: Huge. It's enormous-- way bigger than I ever imagined. In fact a couple have described it as equivalent to the city of Burlington-- about 40,000 people are on this airfield, on this base, doing a number of jobs and many as we said are Vermont guard members.

Carlson: We're going to see some video from the patrol you went on yesterday. Is that mostly what the guard members are doing?

Perron: Well, really they are doing a wide variety of things across Afghanistan. It really depends on where you are. here at Bagram they have a number of jobs from operating this air base, there's a department here that is basically in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly, we have people who are in charge of screening Afghans as they are walking in to do day jobs-- that's here at Bagram. We have folks who are in Charikar who are making sure that our Afghan national police force is up to speed and they are training them. They are on patrol with them making sure they are doing the jobs that they need to so eventually they can hand over power and take control of this area themselves. There are also different parts of Afghanistan were our troops are in conflict with the Taliban and other insurgents trying to secure those areas.

Carlson: What was it like for the guard members to help capture those Taliban suspects?

Perron: Well, interestingly enough, it wasn't actually the guard members who did the capturing. What happened, it was villagers-- local residents-- who actually subdued them and they called the Afghan national police and then the Vermont guard stepped in to help with the screening and to make sure they were in custody correctly. They screened them for bomb-making materials and in fact explosive substances were found on them. And the explosives themselves-- the bomb-making materials-- different things of copper and other material that is used to make bombs and then those people were detained.

Carlson: Do guard members tell you they think they are making a difference?

Perron: Absolutely and they point to that very thing as one of those instances that shows that this is working here according to them. They say many folks anyway are fed up with the Taliban here and they are taking matters into their own hands they want to take their country back; they want to stop these bombings that are taking not only our soldiers' lives but innocent civilian lives as well.

Carlson: While we are taping this it's about 7:30 at night your time. What's on tap for you and Lance today?

Perron: Later... you can hear right now probably some of the aircraft taking off-- but our plan tonight is to really prepare for tomorrow. We have another convoy we are heading out on. I can't give you specifics for security reasons exactly where we are headed to, but I can tell you that what they are trying to do is maintain a route here because part of the goal is to really boost trade and make sure that Afghanistan is stable enough to support itself and how they hope to do that is by increasing trade here; improving infrastructure so that trade routes can be created and people can get their products in and out and to create a stable economic base here. They think that will help in stopping insurgency because the insurgents tend to prey on people who are desperate and if people can make a decent living, fend for themselves, they won't have to rely on them, they can't be pressured by these insurgents to do some of the things that are hurting our people and as we said other innocent people.

Carlson: Well, Darren thanks for your time. Tell Lance we said hi and stay safe.

Perron: I'll tell him right now, he's in back of the camera. Thank you, Kristin.

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