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37th IBCT Security Force Assistance Team mentors 5th Zone Afghan Border Police

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The 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, comprised of National Guard soldiers from Ohio, Michigan, and several other states, arrived here late 2011 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Within the 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team are Security Force Assistance Teams that have been created to assist Afghan National Police and Afghan Border Police with the training of their soldiers in Regional Command – North, Afghanistan.

One ambitious SFA Team, commanded by U.S. Army Col. Michael Maffei, of Boston, mentors the 5th Zone ABP near Mazar-e-Sharif.
Maffei mentors Afghan Brig. Gen. Abdul Habib Sayed Khail, commander of the ABP 5th Zone.

Maffei’s SFAT is made up of seven enablers, seven advisers, and several security force soldiers from the Ohio National Guard, Michigan National Guard, and Washington National Guard.

“The National Guard is so much more powerful in this arena than the Army,” said Maffei, whose background includes thirty years in law enforcement. “For example, if you bring an [Enlisted]-4 infantryman from the Army here, that’s probably all he’s ever done. If you run into an E-4 infantryman from the Guard here, that guy could be a plumber or an engineer or a college professor. That’s a whole second skill set.”

Sgt. 1st Class Pete Padgett, heavy weapons company mentor for the 5th Zone SFAT assigned to the 37th IBCT, owns horses at his home in Eatonville, Wash. Padgett’s civilian expertise was tapped by leaders of the 5th Kandak ABP, in Kwawajah Bahawuddin, Badakhshan province, June 27, 2012, when he helped the Afghan soldiers choose which horses to buy from local farmers to use for the Kandak’s mounted patrol of the Tajikistan border.

The 5th Zone SFAT enablers and advisers have over 300 years of service combined and some of their civilian occupations include police officers, an insurance claims adjustor, an electrician, and a project engineer.

"My goal as a leader is to empower the people that I work with… to do their job,” said Maffei. “I give them a very broad set of limitations and some guidance and they come through with flying colors because they do it their own way.”

The SFAT has been convoying from their post on Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, to the ABP 5th Zone six days a week since their arrival in January 2012 in order to work with their Afghan counterparts.

“We have someone going to 5th Zone every day of the week except Friday,” said Master Sgt. Morgan Sheeran, a former counterinsurgency instructor and quick reaction force mentor for the 5th Zone ABP assigned to the 37th IBCT. “That’s the Afghan’s weekend.”

The team mentors the 5th ABP in areas of medical, quick force reaction, heavy weaponry, intelligence, training, supply, finance, recruiting, and other military aspects.

The team has conducted several missions with the ABP to many of the ABP Kandaks and checkpoints throughout RC-N including missions to Khawajah Bahawuddin, Badakhshan province, on the eastern end of RC-N, Aquina, Faryab province, on the western end of RC-N, and Khwahan, Badakhshan province, on the northern edge of RC-N near the Turkmenistan border, and other areas of RC-N.

One SFAT mission was to Aquina, Faryab province, on March 15, 2012, where 5th Zone SFAT members and ABP officials met with Turkmen Border Police officials. The team convoyed hours through a large dust storm hiding them from Taliban forces that were in the area.

Many of their key leader engagement missions were coupled with humanitarian efforts such as mentoring medical civic action program and supply drops.

Staff Sgt. Roel Martinez, medical mentor for the 5th Zone SFAT assigned to the 37th IBCT, helped to organize and mentor a medical civic action program for the women in the village of Khwahan, Badakhshan province, June 3, 2012. The Afghan women could receive a free healthcare screening by an Afghan doctor. Additionally, two female 37th medics mentored the female Afghan medics.

Maffei’s SFAT has been productive, having logged hundreds of missions.

“The whole staff has been successful,” Maffei said. “The Saturday staff meeting with the 5th Zone ABP and the SFAT… we’re watching success.”

The team’s deployment is scheduled to end sooner than originally planned based on President Obama’s drawdown of troops in Afghanistan by 2014.

Article by Sgt. Kimberly Lamb, 37th Infantry Brigade Combat Team