Stryker brigade commander gives Afghanistan update
More than 6,000 miles away, Army Col. Todd Wood, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based here, leads his unit in assisting the Afghan police and army in securing and stabilizing Afghanistan.
Wood spoke to Alaska media via teleconference Sept. 13 about the brigade’s mission.
The unit’s primary mission in Afghanistan, according to Wood, is assisting and training the local police and Army units in security so that they are able to create a stable country for their people, but they have also assisted in economic development and other projects.
“We are making a difference,” he said.
He said roads are being built, schools are being established and a variety of economic development projects are assisting the people of Afghanistan to be more self-sustaining and self-sufficient.
Although the 1-25th SBCT leaders may not be experts in every field, like agriculture, engineering or construction, Wood said, they are trained to think on their feet and come up with “workable solutions” to the problems the people in the area face.
“We were able to tap into an agricultural team that taught us things as diverse as poultry farms and how to set a check dam to save water for better irrigation,” he said. “We have provided assistance to almost every walk of life that a developing society would need help with, including medical and security. This place is so undeveloped and the need is so great ... that you can make a big difference in the lives of many just by providing them a safe way to get to and from the market.
“The people have the ability to grow food and get that food to market without having to pay a tax to the Taliban,” Wood said. “They can come and go with relative ease and freedom with us here and the Soldiers see that and they get the appreciation from the locals that they run into,” Wood said. “It is very rewarding to see the impact that Soldiers can have on this population, it’s almost immediate. We have formed a very close bond with the people we are living with here.”
The more than 4,000 troops of the 1-25th SBCT have also helped train and assist the Afghan police and Army to become self sustaining and gain the confidence and knowledge needed to take their roles in maintaining the security the U.S. and coalition forces have helped them establish.
Wood gave his condolences to the families of those who have lost loved ones during the unit’s deployment as well as those who have been injured and said their sacrifices have not been in vain.
“This country is grateful in having the U.S and the coalition forces over here helping them,” Wood said.
The unit’s losses are felt equally at home in Alaska and in Afghanistan, Wood said, and his Soldiers have committed themselves to continuing their mission in honor of their fallen comrades.
Wood expressed his gratitude for Alaska’s support to 1-25th SBCT Soldiers and their families.
“I would like to thank the entire state of Alaska for absolutely opening their arms up to our families while we are deployed over here,” Wood says. “We sure appreciate the great support from home.”
Army Lt. Col. Mark Adams, commander of the 1-25th Brigade Troops Battalion also spoke at the teleconference. He noted progress in the fight against improvised explosive devices.
“Soldiers are getting smarter and more resilient (in locating Improvised Explosive Devices),” Adams said. “They see the indicators, how people act along the road. They stop and question them and a lot of the locals will point out IEDs when asked.”
“We have been very successful in recent weeks. Our find rate is well over 90 percent,” he said. “The Soldiers are getting better and they are very confident in what they do.”
With the experience gained in such a short period of time, the Soldiers are able to operate more safely and with fewer losses of life or injuries.
Wood said the overall unit morale was high and the Soldiers are genuinely committed to their mission.
“The Soldiers are working very hard to accomplish their mission,” Wood said, “which is to provide that kind of security which is going to allow this country to transition to complete independence.”