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U.S. Special Forces promote stability in Helmand

Published: 12:58PM September 23rd, 2013

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Army Special Forces Soldiers have helped shape the future of Afghanistan during a critical turning point in the fight against insurgents in the Nimroz and Helmand provinces since their arrival in May 2013.

Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group Airborne, out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, assumed control and command of Special Operation Task Force-Southwest from the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

The battalion has since advised and trained their partner Afghan security forces and set the conditions for Afghans to provide their own security, governance and development in the future.

“This is one of those special times in history,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col Joseph McGraw, battalion and task force commander. “This is a critical time for us as a coalition, for the international community, and for the Afghans themselves. We’re going to see what the fruition of 12 years of labor here in country has achieved during our rotation. By the time we leave we’re really going to know what post 2014 is going to look like with Afghans in the lead.”

The task force is comprised of service members from all four armed service components to include the National Guard. The task force works together to help build unity among Afghan tribal leaders while enhancing security in the area.

“We are truly a joint interagency organization here,” McGraw said. “We have a fantastic working relationship that forms the battle space. We came from all ends of the country and it has formed a really spectacular team.”

The task force along with Task Force Helmand, which is the British brigade also in Helmand, the battalion has a very professional team and operational units that form a composite team that is SOTF-SW, the commander added.

Leaders in the battalion are proud of the work the soldiers have accomplished during the deployment attributing their success to their pre-mission training and the Soldiers’ desire to succeed.

“I tell every Soldier they are in the best battalion within the Special Forces regiment and I firmly believe that,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Napolet, the battalion’s most senior NCO. “The people I work with in this battalion are motivated. They understand the mission, the commander’s intent and they are not afraid to go out and accomplish anything.”

The battalion’s mission isn’t to lead from the front during this deployment, but to help push Afghan forces to lead themselves and to unilaterally perform everything from training, mission planning and the execution missions, said Napolet.

The battalion has already changed over a base in the province to Afghan forces putting them in complete control of all security responsibilities and has plans to turn over another in the near future. They have also helped facilitate the building of multiple Afghan Local Police checkpoints and coordinated dozens of outreach programs providing villages with medical, veterinarian and agricultural support.

“Helmand is different than other provinces,” Napolet said. Afghanistan is a very complex and dynamic environment and nothing in Helmand happens without tribal dynamics, he said. However, the ultimate mission is stability.

“Every day is a new obstacle, but for every problem we’ve come across we have 10 leaders coming together to solve the issue at hand,” said 1st Sgt. Wade Christiansen, the headquarters support center NCOIC. “Every Soldier in this battalion is focused on supporting the teams and each other.”

With most of their deployment over, members of the battalion, and its leaders, take great pride in their work and what they’ve already accomplished. Their dedication to promote stability throughout Afghanistan is a reflection of this remarkable unit and that of their partner agency forces.

“We are being asked to walk through one of the most complex environments on earth, but this is what we’re trained to do,” said McGraw. “Their families at home can be extremely proud of their Soldiers, their green berets, their Marines and their SEALs, because the work that these guys do is valorous and it’s honorable. I’m proud of each and everyone one of them.”