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Seasoned soldiers bring fight to eastern Afghanistan

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Regional Security Force Assistance Team Tomahawk is not your typical Army unit.

Team Tomahawk consists of many older (they prefer the term “seasoned”) soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard.

“Our youngest guy is 36,” said senior adviser, U.S. Army Col. Kevin Staring of McLoud, Okla., and part of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 45th Infantry Division, TF Thunderbird.

Staring handpicked the members of his team. He hoped to bring maturity and experience to the fight.

“Nobody is here to check a block, everyone on my team is a stakeholder,” said Staring. “Our reputation and values are important to us, we want to respect them and go home with honor.”

Team Tomahawk was established to advise Afghan officers and senior non-commissioned officers serving at the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps. Many of their counterparts are also quite, “seasoned.”

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joel Potts, of Stringtown, Okla., TF Thunderbird, sees the experience of his Afghan partners as an asset.

“I have a lot of respect for [our Afghan counterparts], they have been at war for years and know how to fight,” said Potts.

Potts served for more than 30 years. He is a grandfather eight times over and has a son, U.S Army Capt. Justin Potts who is also serving in Afghanistan.

It is not only the ages of Team Tomahawk soldiers that makes their team unique, it also their relationships. Many of these soldiers have been serving together for many years.

Senior enlisted adviser, U.S. Army Sgt. Maj. David Livesay of Moore, Okla., with TF Thunderbird listed the names of Team Tomahawk members who had served with him in the past.

“Master Sgt. Tyson was my squad leader in 1992, Staff Sgt. Byers was my squad leader in Iraq, Master Sgt. Posey was my supply sergeant in ‘96,” said Livesay.

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mike Tyson of Moore, Okla. also feels strongly about his TF Thunderbird team members.

“It’s about the people, I wanted to deploy with these guys,” said Tyson. “I would follow Col. Staring anywhere. I wanted to be a part of his team.”

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Curtis Stapleton of Yukon, Okla., agreed to come off of retirement to join the team. He served for 25 years as a Special Forces communications technician before retiring.

“Col. Staring was trying to put together a team,” said Stapleton. “I told him if he could get the paper work approved, I’d go.”

Now, he is back on active duty and advising Afghan operations officers at the 203rd Corps.

“He’s an old guy like me,” said Staring. “We like to challenge the young guys to see if they can keep up.”

It is clear to those serving at Forward Operating Base Lightning, Team Tomahawk makes up for what it lacks in youth with determination. Despite their “seasoned” status they insist that they can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

“If you ever want to find us all in one place, just come to the gym at 4:00 a.m.,” said Team Tomahawk chief of staff, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Shannon Jordan of Stillwater, Okla., and member of TF Thunderbird.

Jordan serves as a veteran Oklahoma police officer when not an active duty. He is also a world champion marksman. He said he hopes his experience and that of his fellow Oklahoma Guardsmen will have a lasting impact on the Afghan soldiers that he serves.

Article by Capt. Kenneth Stewart, Combined Joint Task Force 1