The paratroopers of the 102nd Sapper Company are the first Soldiers in the last five years from the 307th Engineer Battalion to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
When 7th Engineer Battalion expressed the need for additional route clearance platoons, Lt. Col. Brett Sylvia knew exactly which of his companies was up to the task.
The 102nd, a highly-trained combat airborne sapper company that has extensively trained on route clearance tasks for the past year and its ranks are filled with the most professional and tactically proficient engineers the U.S. Army has to offer.
Upon arriving to their forward operating base in eastern Afghanistan, Capt. Kenneth Cook, the 102nd Company commander, learned that his mission was two-fold.
His original mission of defeating an evolving improvised explosive device network was equally as important as his additional task of training an Afghan engineer battalion on Afghan sustainable route clearance operations.
The end state of Afghan sustainable route clearance is that the Afghan National Army will be capable of conducting effective, non-partnered route clearance when the U.S. ceases combat operations.
The 102nd Sapper Company will leave Afghanistan well before this occurs.
Therefore, 102nd has initially focused on developing a relationship with the Afghan Engineer Battalion setting the conditions for candid discussion on tactics, techniques and procedures.
Capt. Kenneth Cook has met with ANA Col. Malikddin several times a week since his unit’s arrival to eastern Afghanistan in July.
The following meetings consisted of discussion of the way forward for training the colonel’s route clearance companies. The two commanders agreed on four lines of effort.
These LOE’s will be route clearance package training, medical training, maintenance and reporting.
All four are essential to conducting successful route clearance and sustaining mission success.
The company’s platoon leaders and section leaders will be responsible for executing this training on a weekly basis.
To better understand the current capabilities of our Afghan partners, the officers and senior noncommissioned officers of the 102nd invited Malikddin to share chi, ideas, and foster a joint working initiative.
Malikddin was more than pleased to accept this invitation and the meeting resulted in a better understanding of Afghan capabilities. Malikddin’s knowledge that we are committed to the mission of training his soldiers.
Here, at the beginning of the effort to train sustainable Afghan RCC, it is crucial that leadership at the lowest level understands that the mission will not be accomplished overnight or even in a single deployment cycle.
The 102nd Sapper Company has begun the process by developing a trusting relationship with ANA leadership and establishing specific training focuses.
In the coming months, the 102nd Sapper Company will work with ANA on a weekly basis by training RCP’s on basic skills needed to conduct and sustain vital joint route clearance missions.
Cook summed up the mission at the units transfer of authority ceremony.
“To the Afghan National Army Engineers, we are honored to fight by your side, as you answer the call of your citizens and write the next chapter of Afghan history. You can count on us to do our part!”