Soldiers with Company A and Company B, 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, returned to Fort Bragg this month after a five-month deployment to Afghanistan.
With capabilities being curtailed and equipment retrograded, many 519th Soldiers faced different challenges doing their jobs during the drawdown in Afghanistan.
“It’s a different time in Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. Kevin McAninch, 519th MI Bn. commander. “It’s a year of transition.”
McAninch said his Soldiers were getting different perspectives of their jobs based on where they were and what they were doing.
“I think it’s interesting because it’s all part of the change that’s happening here,” McAninch said.
For a team with Co. A, the change made for a difficult deployment. As a multifunctional team member, 2nd Lt. Sarah Funk was trained to locate and apprehend high-value targets, but found that skill set to be almost unnecessary.
“It was a challenge to stay viable,” Funk explained. “MFTs were created when Afghanistan was more kinetic. The targeting process isn’t important anymore.”
With multiple deployments under his belt, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hull, Co. A, MFT team sergeant, said he was amazed at the success Afghan National Security Force has made since his last deployment in 2011.
“The strides they have made are crazy; to see how far they’ve come to running their own missions and taking care of their own population,” Hull said.
He further explained how much of the information his team gathered went to the patrols that the ANSF led.
“With the ANSF able to hold their own and taking the lead, we can take the back seat and advise and assist,” Hull explained.
While Soldiers from Co. A encountered difficulties using their pre-deployment training, Pfc. Genova Duenas-Garcia, Co. B, human intelligence collector, had a better experience.
“It was good,” Duenas-Garcia said. “I got to do my job and put what I was taught into action. It was great to get the experience I needed.”
Duenas-Garcia said she believed her mission was a success because she was able to build a relationship with the locals.
With more than half of the 519th Soldiers still deployed in Afghanistan, many will continue to face challenges such as diminished capabilities, as U.S. forces leave Afghanistan.
“There were 60 teams spread across 24 locations,” McAninch explained. “By the time we depart, we’ll have around 36 teams at 13 locations.”
Being the first company to go through the curtailment process, Capt. Brad Schmitt, Co. B commander, said it was a good experience. And while 80 percent of his company had never deployed, they remained resilient and flexible.
“They were amazingly adaptive as far as finding new ways to accomplish their tasks,” Schmitt said.
In spite of the many adjustments the 519th Soldiers had to make due to the drawdown, McAninch said the transition was really amazing to experience for anyone who has served in Afghanistan.
“For those who have fought in this fight for over 12 years now, we can see what 12 years of work has led to and it’s pretty phenomenal,” McAninch said.