LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The Battery B, 5th Battalion, 25th Artillery Regiment, force protection team watches over the soldiers and Afghan civilians who move in and around Forward Operating Base Gamberi on a daily basis from towers around the FOB.
The regiment is part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based out of Fort Polk, La.
Before these soldiers go on duty they are briefed on all notable actions that have occurred 24 hours prior to their shift. During the pre-shift brief, they also go over all of the authorized response measures.
The brief is not all talk: leaders inspect the soldiers gear and weapon systems to make sure they are ready for use during the shift, should the need arise.
“We keep our head on a swivel, our eyes out for enemies and we make sure everyone is safe,” said Spc. Joseph Valente, a forward observer with Battery B, 5-25th Regiment.
Valente said he and his team attribute their ability to stay alert during watch to their physical and mental discipline.
“It’s trained in you from day one in the Army so it becomes easier to stay alert than it sounds,” said the Scranton, Pa., native.
This is Valente’s first force protection team mission but he’s glad to add it to his experience.
He arrived to the force protection team a month before the unit deployed to Regional Command East and he said the team has grown close in their time so far.
“We’re all close, we have to be, we stand with each other up there on watch for eight hours a day, so we have to be close with everybody so you can trust them to watch your back as you watch theirs,” Valente said.
The 5-25th Regiment is part of Task Force Patriot, whose mission is to mentor the Afghan National Security Force in RC-East. Staff Sgt. John Henington, platoon sergeant, assigned to Battery B, 5-25th Regiment, said the force protection mission also plays a vital part in the Afghan mentoring at FOB Gamberi.
“Force protection is crucial to the advise-and-assist mission because it creates a secure location in which leaders can engage in training and planning. We take our security very seriously and can respond to any threat at a moment’s notice,” said Henington, a Pocatello, Idaho, native.
Henington said the force protection team’s roll in the advise-and-assist mission does not stop at providing a safe environment.
“Having a solid force-pro element on FOB Gamberi also enables Afghan National Army commanders operating here to see what right looks like, allowing their troops to mirror the way we secure areas of importance, as well as, respond to threats against our FOB,” Henington said.
Henington believes that allowing the ANA soldiers to implement some of his team’s techniques will help them increase security on other ANA FOBs throughout Afghanistan.