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Crazy Horse Troop, 1-14 Cavalry-ANA partnership 'going very well' (1 of 2)

October 2, 2012

By Sgt. Christopher McCullough

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan - Eleven years ago when the United States entered Afghanistan, it was a very different place. The Taliban were in power, the Afghan infrastructure was decimated, foreign business was nonexistent, women had zero rights and music and poetry were outlawed.

These days things are different and you see it everywhere you look. The Afghan people are growing as a society. The literacy rate here has increased, women have more rights now than a decade ago, businesses from abroad have begun investing in the country's future and Afghan music and poetry are prevalent everywhere.

Still, the International Security Assistance Force's mission is not complete. While Washington D.C. has said that nearly all U.S. troops will be coming home by the end of 2014, there's still plenty left to do, such as continuing to train the Afghan National Army to assume responsibility for Afghanistan's continued success through 2014 and beyond. That is where units such as Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron 14th Infantry Regiment, Combined Task Force Arrowhead, come into play.

Based out of Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Crazy Horse Troop is in the first 100 days of their first deployment to Afghanistan. Their mission is to enable Afghan National Security Forces to provide security for the people of Afghanistan.

"The partnership has been going very well," said Capt. Brian Rieser, commander, C/1-14 Cav, of the working relationship with the Afghan National Army Kandaks with whom Crazy Horse Troop partners with on a regular basis.

"We've been conducting joint operations with the 6th Kandak, as well as the 4th Kandak," said Rieser. "For the most part we've been very successful in conducting those operations."

When asked about the transition going on here, in preparation for the 2014 drawdown, Rieser said, "I think this transition period with us here in Afghanistan is going to be a lot smoother than it was in Iraq. Part of that has to do with the last 30 years of fighting. A lot of these guys have been fighting for years."

The soldiers of Crazy Horse are no strangers to war either. The troop was deployed to Iraq three times over the course of the last decade and they understand that Afghanistan is not Iraq.

"It's not like Iraq," said 1st Lt. Joe Fontana, executive officer, C/1-14 Cav. "Here you have to make do with what you got," he said, referring to the lack of super-sized logistical hubs that dominated the Iraq landscape between 2003 and 2011 while American troops were deployed to Iraq.

"(Consequently,) we've become very proficient, very efficient at using what we have; using the tools we've been given," Fontana said.

"I will say that (their) hard work and dedication shows how these soldiers can so quickly adapt to something they're not used to and I'm so proud of them," said Rieser. "One of the biggest things we had to fight was that everything we fell in on was brand-new equipment, (but our) soldiers have been able to adapt."

Adapt, they have. Though the troop has received ample support from their squadron and brigade, the soldiers of Crazy Horse Troop have accomplished a lot by themselves.

"One of the biggest accomplishments is learning all about these new communications equipment," said Fontana. "These guys have been phenomenal at working with these systems and the new technology we've been presented with, adapting to it and using it efficiently."

Even though the soldiers of Crazy Horse are adept at learning new equipment; ultimately the success of their mission depends on gaining the trust of the Afghan people.

"Having the ANA and ANP (Afghan National Police) lead out in the front and present to the people that they're leading the mission, it gives the people confidence and trust because if the ANA and police trust us and work with us, then the Afghans will trust us," said Fontana. "Every day when we go out on a mission, they're there with us."

That methodology seems to be working.

"The people have pretty much brought us into the local villages with smiles and handshakes," said Rieser. "I know they've told me time and time again, they're glad we're here. They're glad that America continues to support them along with the ANSF and the government officials here."

According to Rieser, a lot of the enthusiasm the local populace has shown has everything to do with the level of professionalism shown to the Afghan people whenever Crazy Horse is on patrol.

"I've heard it (said) that the soldiers are professional and that they appreciate that we treat them with dignity and respect," Rieser said. "I think that says a lot about the professionalism of the troops in this unit."

Ultimately, the future of Afghanistan will depend on how well Afghan National Security Forces are trained up in the tactics, techniques and technologies necessary to stop a Taliban resurgence. Crazy Horse troops have been training ANSF how to engage key leaders, enroll people using the Biometrics Automated Toolset System, otherwise known as BATS, and prepare and execute their own missions.

"Teaching them how to plan and coordinate their own missions is a big step," said Fontana. "That's one of the main goals we have right now."

Without a doubt, the soldiers of Crazy Horse Troop have their work cut out for them, but their commander is confident they will prevail.

"I just want to continue (the) successful operations we've had so far and continue that good relationship we've had with the ANSF forces because, like I tell the guys all the time, we're here to help them...train them during their operations, but at the same time too we learn a lot from them," said Rieser. "They're the experts of this country, of this terrain, and they're also the experts on the enemy. We learn just as much from them as they learn from us. So as long as we can keep that going over the next nine months, I think we'll be successful."

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