Story and photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Snodgrass
BOST AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Marines with Border Advisor Team 1 met with Afghan Border Police to evaluate their status and offer guidance at Bost Airfield outside Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, June 19. The Marines met with the ABP leadership, took inventory of all their weapons, and verified their training was valid and up to date.
With the drawdown of U.S. security forces in Afghanistan soon to take place, the responsibility of protecting its border has become a major concern for Afghan law enforcement officials concerning the welfare of Afghanistan. To aide the transition of responsibility, Marines with Border Advisor Teams embed themselves with the ABP battalions, called Kandaks, and mentor them on how to effectively maintain order and conduct security operations as an independent organization.
The 1st Company of the BAT 1 based in Lashkar Gah is composed of nine U.S. service members mentoring an ABP battalion of about 300 men. There are also teams in Khan Neshin and Taghaz that work with Team 1 in Lashkar Gah.
“We’re teaching them how to run as a fully functioning security element,” said Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Holliday, the non-commissioned officer in charge of BAT 1.
The primary mission of the teams is to make the ABP operate with the same effectiveness and efficiency independent of U.S. support.
“Success for us is the Afghan Border Police having a structured system of security and accountability with strong, capable leaders who can command a kandak with the same proficiency as we do,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Abell, a native of Akron, Ohio, and the mentor for BAT 1.
Upon arriving, Abell and the rest of the advisory team met with the officers of the post to brief them on the mission objectives of the day. Once that was done, the team visited with the different Bost Airfield security checkpoints to evaluate their capabilities.
The first task of the Marines was to ensure the ABP were properly armed. Bost Airfield is a vital link for Lashkar Gah to the outside world and could be exploited by insurgents for smuggling purposes or as a target for attack.
“We want to ensure all ABP personnel have their own weapon,” Abell said. “We want them to be able to repel any threat insurgent forces could pose to them.”
After ensuring the Afghans had their own weapons, Abell began to take inventory of all the serial numbers for all the weapons and assign them to specific personnel. This ensures that each weapon is under the supervision of just one person, instead of being passed between different personnel without any ownership or accountability for the weapon.
With weapons inventory and training certification verified, Abell then met with Haji Samad, the ABP 1st Co. commander, to discuss current and future operations and logistics.
“Logistics is always a big concern for these guys,” Abell said. “Whether it’s vehicle maintenance or weapons issues, they need to develop a system in which they can efficiently get what they need.”
Abell also pointed out that he stresses long-term planning as well.
“I’m already getting on them about obtaining enough cold weather uniform gear for the winter months, even though it’s the middle of summer,” he said. “They’re learning the sooner they begin planning for upcoming events, the easier the process goes.”
After Abell and Samad discussed security and logistics, the Marines ate lunch side by side with the ABP, which is a sign of respect in Afghan culture.
“We want them to know that they have our support,” Abell said. “But we also want them to be able to stand by themselves.”