Delaware MPs train for Afghan mentor mission
By: Army Capt. Antonia Greene, 174th Infantry Bde
“My first two deployments, I didn’t work with local nationals,” said Army Sgt. Israel Santiago, a 16-year Army veteran from Wilmington, Del. “This time I’ll be working hand-in-hand, one-on-one.”
Soldiers of the 153rd Military Police Company headquartered in Delaware City, Del., train the basics of cultural advising in a classroom setting prior to their collective field exercises later this month and into February. The 174th Infantry Brigade stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. and the 162nd Inf. Bde. from Fort Polk, La. teamed up to provide the unit police mentorship training to employ downrange soon in Afghanistan.
The 153rd Military Police Company, more than 120 Delaware Army National Guard Soldiers headquartered in Delaware City, Del., mobilized recently at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. The unit, the first of several police mentorship training assets to deploy in support of Overseas Contingency Operations in Afghanistan, spent four days of classroom training learning the fundamentals of cultural advising.
“Building effective rapport starts with understanding the culture and environment you are operating in,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian King, trainer/mentor with the 162nd Inf. Bde. “Identifying patterns in cultures and recognizing differences help us identify ways to establish a common bond.”
Trainer mentors assigned to the 174th Infantry Brigade, First Army Division East, assisted by instructors from the 162nd Infantry Brigade out of Fort Polk, La. focused the unit’s training on their deployment mission: the advising and mentoring of Afghan security forces.
“Green on blue is a real threat and learning how to avoid miscommunication - to not offend your Afghan counterpart and establish a good working relationship - is key to coming home safe,” said Santiago. “I have experience in the military and in law enforcement, but this is my first leadership position, and I want my team to excel.”
The 153rd MP Company deployed in 2007 to Baghdad and Kalsu where many of the Soldiers and leaders worked with Iraqi Security Forces. Santiago and nine others from his company provided personal security for the then United States Forces – Iraq Commanding General, Gen. Raymond Odierno.
“My first deployment I did gate security at the base entry control point and my second deployment, I got to see a lot of places other soldiers don’t get to, but this time is the first time I’m deploying with dependents at home,” shared Santiago, a new father of a five-month-old baby girl.
Another 153rd MP Co. Soldier, Army Spec. Kristine Deboda, an emergency medical technician in Newark, Del., said she looks forward to gaining new experiences.
“As a medic, there will be challenges of trauma with limited supplies and resources, but I look forward to the aid station experience and assisting with the Afghan training,” shared Deboda who plans on going to medical school when she returns from her mission overseas.
Cultural advisor and police mentorship training centers on effective cross-culture communication, said King. “Knowing the Afghan people are a collective, interdependent society where group decision-making is common, affects the way we operate, train and advise,” he continued.
“Social systems – family, religion and sometimes government – influence various regions in different ways,” explained King. “Understanding where power lies within a community makes advising a lot more effective.”
Police mentorship training at the joint base consists of cultural advisor classroom instruction followed up by insider threat training and a series of field problems where the Soldiers put what they’ve learned to the test. Mission-specific training accounts for more than two-thirds of the 153rd MPs time at the JB MDL Mobilization Force Generating Installation.In addition to their police mentorship training, the 153rd also validated their traditional military police combat survival skills training. Training how to counter Improvised Explosive Devices, executing small arms marksmanship drills and patrol tactics are vital training tasks for all service members preparing for similar missions in Afghanistan.
“It’s a push for independence, focusing on advising and training the Afghans rather than U.S. forces coming in and taking the lead,” said Santiago. “It’s part of sustaining what we’ve helped fight for the past decade plus.”
The unit will deploy to Afghanistan in February.