Indiana National Guard unit prepares for Afghan mission

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Sometimes, events do not go as foreseen.

However unexpected change may be, the mission must still be fulfilled and obligations met.

Despite having an earlier mission cancelled, the Indiana Army National Guard’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team used this as an opportunity to prepare for any mission the country would ask of them. Chance favors the prepared mind. Those missions have come.

The brigade’s headquarters company will be providing command and control for coalition forces in Oruzgan Province of Afghanistan, Col. Jerry Hadley, of Noblesville, Ind., commander of the 76th IBCT, said.

"We will be one of the battlespace owners," Hadley said.

Adding, "Our mission is to provide command and control for coalition forces operating in the province. We will be working with Australian forces, Provincial Reconstruction Team and Afghan forces in a combined team."

According to Hadley, the deployment to Oruzgan Province represents a milestone.

"We are the first brigade combat team to this province," Hadley said.

He added, "We will be taking over from Combined Team Oruzgan, a U.S.-led organization composed of personnel pulled from higher headquarters and commanded by a colonel."

The ultimate goal, according to Hadley, is to put the Afghans in the lead and for the brigade to eventually fill the role of mentors and advisers.

"We want to create a province that is able to govern itself and hand it over to the Afghans; to make ourselves not have to be there. We will work with their government to put Afghans in the lead."

According to Hadley, when the soldiers of the 76th IBCT arrived on Camp Atterbury, they had already completed 90 percent of their mobilization training during their annual training last summer.

"We’ve spent less than half our time at Atterbury for this mobilization," Hadley said. "We were at the Counterinsurgency Academy at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Getting the Brigade focused on counterinsurgency operations.

"In the past, the Brigade has performed more logistical security patrols and the last time we were in Afghanistan, we were mentoring the Afghan National Army."

After training at the Counterinsurgency Academy, the brigade returned to Camp Atterbury for counter improvised explosive device training, weapons, medical, vehicle and base defense training, building up to a command post training exercise at Fort Polk, La., according to Lt. Col. David Vesper, Fishers, Ind., the brigade’s executive officer.

"Everything we’ve done builds to that event," said Vesper.

Adding, "The scenario will replicate the command in Afghanistan with everything happening faster than it would in reality. In three mobilizations, this is the best pre-mobilization yet. The training we are receiving is exactly what we will be doing."

One of the factors that will contribute to the success of the 76th IBCT is the cohesiveness of this group of soldiers.

"Everyone is in good spirits and ready to accomplish the mission," 1st Lt. Laura Sizemore, of Indianapolis, assistant intelligence officer and company commander, said.

Adding, "We had to change some assumptions going into this mission. But we have a solid team with a lot of experience and trust in our command group."

Once the 76th IBCT completes the exercise at Fort Polk, they will return to be validated and ready to deploy on their year-long mission, said Sizemore.