Unique Leaders, Unique Visit
I just finished a very busy but reewarding cycle in my capacity as the protocol officer. We were just visited by Lt. Gen. Noori, Vice Chief of Staff of the Afghan National Army and our future commanding officer, MG (USA) Durbin, Commander of Coalition Forces Command-Afghanistan. The visit was unprecedented. Noori, as small in stature as he is enormous in experience and courage is one of the two top leaders in the most respected institution in his country. He spoke to us in Farsi through his interpretter in a quiet, yet proud voice of his delight to witness such professionalism from the Citizen-soldiers, Sailors and Airmen whosr training he got to view. Maj. Gen. Durbin, a man with 33 years of military service, spoke with tremendous personal respect for the man he accompanied. "Our mission is to mentor not to monitor," he offered. Lt. Gen. Noori's own requests were aligned with tose of Durbin. When asked by a young non commissioned officer what the one thing that is most important for Noori and his soldiers to receive from the members of the task force, Noori did not hesitate, "Train them as you would your own, enforce the same standards you expect from your soldiers. Teach them from the standards you hold for your own men." Speaking over breakfast this morning to the soldiers that have the highest priority of our effort, the Embedded Training Teams that will live, train, eat, and sleep with their Afghan counterparts, Durbin warned them, "You are going to find that I am a demanding person." Speaking of the hard work he has offered the service and Nation over the past three decades, he explained, "I have never worked harder than I have since taking command of this organization." As the mentor/advisor to the newly appointed Minister of Defense and to the top leaders of the Afghan National Army, men such as General Noori, that fought the decade long insurgency against the Soviet Union's occupation and haven't stopped fighting since, he explained "By arriving in theater in the uniform you are wearing, you have instant credibility. It is up to you to continue to deserve that respect. You will be surrounded my somoe of the toughest fighters in the world. Soldiers that effectively kicked the Soviets ass years ago as a guerilla force. They know tactics, but lack the organization of having a professional military force. It is your job to ensure that they become the best force they can possibly be," he concluded.
When the official party arrived, we were to brief them in our operations tent. Immediately upon their entry, I recognized one of the newest members of Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan, Col. Michael Harrison. Harrison, the tall, serious, career Infantry officer had served in Hawaii within the same brigade that I had served a little over a decade ago. Harrison had commanded the "Cacti" battalion 2/35 Infantry, of the Third Brigade at Schofield Barracks. I remember him for his broad smile and direct presence. When he was with you, you were the most important thing in his mind. Harrison will have a deliberate role in oversight of our organization, focusing his efforts on resourcing our training efforts to ensure that we will have the tools we have to get the Afghan Army to its highest possible level of readiness. It will be good to have a friendly face to turn to in the higher headquarters during this historic time.
Brig. Gen. Pritt, my commanding officer and the man that first brought me into the Oregon National Guard, just left my office for the night. We were discussing the visit and some of the upcoming "Dee-Vees" (Distinguished Visitors) we expect to host during our stay here at Camp Shelby. We were discussing the uniqueness of the visit of Generals Durbin and Noori and I mentioned how the embedded journalist with us, Scott Kesterson, had an exclusive interview with the second highest ranking officer in the Afghan National Army and how this was the first of hundreds of unique opportunities we were going to experience.
"Are you kidding, Arnold?" he smiled. "With leaders like this, during this historic time in the history of Afghanistan, with the training we have going into this? We are all going to have the most extraordinary military experiences of our lifetime."
It is hard to have any problem with morale when you are led by leaders like these.
(Photos by my great friend Tech Sgt. Nick Choy)