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Security Forces Airmen, Soldiers Mentor Afghan Prison Guards

Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly VersionSend to a FriendSend to a FriendAir Force Security Forces Defenders, along with U.S. Army Soldiers from the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team, met with prison officials, Oct. 28, as part of an on-going mentoring project at a nearby prison. The prison, located close to the PRT compound, has become an important project for the team due to activity this summer. "We had seen the prison have some real troubles this summer," said Lt. Col. Andy Veres, the PRT commander. "Some of the trouble had been from the inside and some from the outside, so we thought it was important to assist them in further securing the prison." That assistance came in the part of advice, equipment to build an outer wall and support in procuring construction contracts for the building of concrete structures and floors. Staff Sgt. David Popp, a security forces Airman assigned to the PRT, stated that his years of training in detainee operations, as well as base defense, helps the prison in a number of ways. "I have about twelve years of experience in this type of environment," said Sgt. Popp, who is deployed from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. "I have worked with insurgent prisoners before. I know how to handle them securely and how to work with multiple groups of people. I also bring experience in setting up a base defense, which helps secure the compound from the outside as well." Along with helping build up the prison, the security teams also represent the U.S. presence in the city. The team accomplishes this by providing a positive influence through foot patrols and meeting with the citizens on a regular basis. It was through talking with the local population that the team found out how bad the prison had become. "Before we started working with the prison officials, the prison was not as secure as it should have been," said Army Sgt. David Hopper, a Soldier assigned to the PRT's security forces team. "We felt that it was important to keep these prisoners, some of whom are insurgents, away from the local population. By building a stronger, more secure prison we can accomplish that," said Sergeant Hopper. The sergeant is a guardsmen deployed to the region and works as a prison guard when not serving in the Army. He plans to work with the guards and teach them some techniques on properly handling prisoners, securing the building and use of restraints. "This is my job, so I feel I can really pass on my knowledge to the Afghans," said the sergeant. "I have worked as a field training officer, teaching new guards, so this is truly what I know." Along with the training, the PRT also has plans to enhance the guard's weapons handling capability. As stated by the commander, a basic, fundamental approach to training is needed for the Afghan personnel. "These men work for the Ministry of Justice, not the Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the ANP, or Afghanistan national police," said Colonel Veres. "They may look like policemen, but they are not. They are pretty much on their own to run things. We can take a basic, step-by-step approach to their training, ultimately making them better, more capable guards," he stated.