An Afghan Village in the U.S.
POSTED: Friday, October 8, 2010 - 4:36pm
UPDATED: Monday, October 18, 2010 - 11:19am
MCGREGOR RANGE- It's a dusty walk for Bravo Company as they head into an Afghan village.
"We go talk to the elder of the village and find out what his needs are as far as water, power, those kinds of things," says Sgt. David Johnston.
The mission is to help build the village a school. Soldiers and elders meet, with a translator in between.
Today's discussion decides which contractor will take the project.
But in reality, no contractor gets hired, and no school gets built. That's because this is all training, in a mock Afghan village built by the Army just 45 minutes north of El Paso.
Plaster homes and Arabic graffiti mimic a scene from abroad.
With over twenty Afghan nationals acting as role players, the experience becomes pretty real. Soldiers say the realism means everything.
"On a personal level, it makes us feel better and more secure about what we're doing over there," says Sgt. Johnston.
And that's the point. Bravo Company set up an entire operating base in the village, treating every second as they would in Afghanistan. They practice with real armor, real guns, and real bullets.
"We have to take it as serious as possible because if we don't here, it could cost the lives of our own soldiers or civilians," says Cpl. Timothy Black.
The unit spent six days in the town the Army named Marjani. They built roofs, delivered aid, and even cleaned a well.
"Our job as infantrymen is to close and destroy the enemy by any means necessary, but this fight is sometimes handshakes and smiles more than firing weapons," says Company Commander Cpt. Beau Pendergraft.
U.S. strategy calls for soldiers to work with elders, turning villages against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
The U.S. is trying to win the war by winning hearts. Sergeant Johnston scans the hillside before the group leaves. An Afghan mission over, completed on U.S. soil.