By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Friends and family of the 1st Cavalry's Afghanistan contingent interacted with division commander Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn and Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto Saturday during a live video teleconference at Club Hood.
Allyn briefed them on troops' efforts and engagements in Regional Command-East, where he leads an international military and civilian task force. At 43,000 square miles, the geographically, culturally and linguistically diverse area of operations is home to 7.5 million people.
Five U.S. brigades, in addition to Polish and French troops, make up the region's 42,000-member coalition force, stationed at more than 130 combat outposts. There are 68,000 Afghan security soldiers fighting alongside them.
In addition to the 1st Cavalry's Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, its 1st Air Cavalry Brigade also is deployed to Afghanistan.
Although the division has seen the regional command make great strides since arriving in the spring, Allyn said the fight remains tough.
"Don't let me kid you for a second," he said. In addition to only the most basic infrastructure-building and humanitarian assistance, "there is unbelievably tough fighting going on here every hour of every day."
The enemy is nebulous and the region's porous border with Pakistan is problematic, he said. Some of Combined Joint Task Force-1's largest-scale engagements have occurred there, with Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network insurgents "who (have a) safe haven across the border with our ally."
Allyn called corruption the second-biggest challenge to operations in Afghanistan, after the government's relative youth.
"It has historical roots in this culture," he said of corruption in civil government and security forces. "We put a spotlight on it when we see it and (let) the people decide."
But, Allyn said, "bar none, we will prevail."
Afghanistan's own security forces will play a big role in that success, he said. They're now participating in 90 percent of operations in the regional command, up from 60 percent in the spring. "They've led several very complex operations in the last month."
Asked how the Fort Hood community could support the division in Afghanistan, Vimoto told the crowd to keep troopers in their prayers.
Retired Gen. Robert M. Shoemaker offered a light moment when he shared with Allyn and Vimoto his memories of Afghanistan during a deployment to the region in 1958.
"So I can't help you with your current mission," he said. "That was a year before I came around," Allyn said, laughing.
Col. Philip Battaglia, rear detachment division commander, called the teleconference "a tremendous opportunity to connect with our division headquarters and (their longtime supporters).
"Our community leaders give us so much support here and when we're deployed."
Teleconferences may occur on a quarterly basis for the rest of the deployment, Battaglia said.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.