A 10-state team of National Guard personnel lead by Brig. Gen. Jonathan Farnham of the Vermont National Guard will finish a very unique year-long deployment in Afghanistan in December.
The team assigned to the NATO ISAF Joint Command (IJC) headquarters here at Kabul International Airport performed many missions of strategic importance.
“When we mobilized, we had no idea we would be briefing General McCrystal, General Petraeus, and senior NATO and US government officials on a continual basis,” said Army Brig. Gen. Jon Farnham, director of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) Development Assistance Bureau.
The 46-member team was originally scheduled to mobilize in support of training operations across Afghanistan, but just before mobilization they were advised that they had been selected to complete the stand-up of a new organization at the new NATO operational headquarters here.
The new organization, the Afghan National Security Forces Development Assistance Bureau or ADAB, would have the mission of planning, coordinating and assessing the growth and development of fielded Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) units.
The National Guard was the perfect fit for this organization, because of its unique role working with both military and police organizations in the United States in preparations for response to a man-made or natural disaster, Farnham said.
The National Guard typically brings with it unique skill sets that members have in their widely varied civilian capacities, experiences and backgrounds, and this talented group was no exception, Farnham said.
The ADAB team had an immediate impact on Afghan Army and Police development, briefing courses of action to Gen. Stanley McCrystal (then ISAF Commander) just two weeks after arriving in theater.
“Briefing General McCrystal, Sir John McColl (of NATO) and General Petraeus has been a unique experience for me,” said Army Col. Mike Bouchard, a Maine Army Guard member and the ANP division chief. “It is great to have a Guard organization performing at this strategic level.”
Transition of security responsibility to Afghan security forces is a key tenant of the U.S. and international community efforts in Afghanistan. The ADAB team quickly became subject matter experts in this area and are continually called upon to provide information to decision makers from capitals around the world.
NATO leaders at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) rely on the ADAB for critical information. “Traveling to Mons, Belgium to brief the SHAPE leadership was an incredible experience but not what I expected when I deployed to Afghanistan,” said Army Col. Terry Sullivan of the Nevada Army Guard.
Army Col. Dennis Devery, a New Jersey Guardsman and deputy director of the ADAB, said, “preparing briefings and reports for Secretary Gates, Secretary Clinton, congressional delegations and leaders of the 49 nations with troops in Afghanistan has become standard practice for the ADAB.”
Assessing the progress of Afghan National Security Forces is an essential component of transition planning. The assessments process informs leaders of Afghan capability to begin transitioning responsibility for planning and executing security operations to the Afghans.
Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander ISAF Joint Command, realized that previous assessment systems were not measuring operational effectiveness and turned to the ADAB to develop a new ANSF assessment system.
Army Capt. Sidney Priest and Maj. Michael Papp, both of the Vermont Guard, developed the Commanders Unit Assessment Tool (CUAT), which is now the standard tool for assessing Afghan Army and Police units across theater. The evaluations are now used by senior level decision makers around the world to evaluate the progress of Afghan National Security Forces.
A recent article by the Center for Strategic and International Studies stated, “the CUAT is a significant improvement over the old Capability Milestone system.”
A unique element of the ADAB mission is working in a NATO headquarters with personnel from 49 nations, including Singapore, Mongolia, Croatia, Australia and everywhere in between.
“Working at a NATO headquarters with personnel from 49 other countries, all the other US services and our Afghan partners is challenging and rewarding” said Army Col. Vern Freeman of the North Carolina Guard.
Another unexpected mission for the ADAB was to plan for and supervise the theater training and validation of all NATO Operational Mentor Liaison Teams (OMLTs) and Police Operational Mentor Liaison Teams (POMLTs) that come to Afghanistan to train Afghan Army and Police units.
“Supervising the OMLT/POMLT division with its 19 international officers, the complexity of that mission and the diplomacy required of coalition operations was a valuable experience.” said Farnham.
The ADAB team also was called upon to assist with training NATO conventional forces deploying to Afghanistan. It deployed personnel to the NATO training center in Stavanger, Norway to train the French Rapid Reaction Corps and the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps for their deployments to Afghanistan.
The experience of working with coalition forces in a joint and combined environment during combat operations is unprecedented for the National Guard. “I was proud to work with coalition partners at the ISAF Joint Command and to be selected to train the incoming NATO forces in Norway,” said Army Lt. Col. Tom Zelko, a Vermont Guard member and ANA division chief.
The ADAB mission required team members to travel to every Regional Command in Afghanistan. It assisted the Regional ANSF Development Sections with mission critical support to ANSF forces. The team was also called upon to provide direct support and mentoring to the Afghan Minister of Defense, Afghan Ministry of Interior, Afghan National Military Coordination Center and National Police Coordination Center, Afghan Border Police and Afghan National Civil Order Police.
Every member of the ADAB team contributed to the development of the Afghan National Security Forces and now plays a vital role in turning over this critical mission to the follow-on National Guard headquarters from the 29th Infantry Division.