With III Corps approaching the four-month mark of its yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, the Phantom Corps’ chief of operations spoke about the work of Fort Hood soldiers overseas.
“I think it’s been going very well since we took over,” said Col. Paul Reese, who serves as the director of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center, while deployed to Kabul.
In this position, Reese said he runs the center and provides situational awareness of Afghanistan to help decision-making for Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of III Corps and ISAF Joint Command. Nearly 120 people work in the operations center from about 15 different nations, Reese said. Their expertise fields range from intelligence to analysts.
“What we are responsible for is tracking all the events that occur in Afghanistan,” he said. “On a daily basis, we average 100 to 120 different things happening during the day that rise up to our level. I translate, then give the information to the commander to make him aware of or to make a decision on.”
Those events can be enemy operations, but also weather-related incidents such as the recent rain storms, which flooded areas of Afghanistan.
“Everybody is chipping in and it’s very similar to what we planned for and had trained for before we left,” Reese said. “They’re keeping us busy, but it’s good. We’re a large headquarters and we’re all spread out. It’s good to see faces from Fort Hood when you go to meeting or dinner.”
Despite the overall positive progress, Reese said there have been some challenging days.
“It’s hard obviously to see casualties — particularly our own,” he said. “I have a daughter and son back home and when I see different events that occur when the Afghan children or civilians get involved ... it’s always hard to watch and hear about, and see how insurgents have blatant disregard.
“The good days are the days we are able to help out,” he continued. “It’s good to see the team come together and provide awareness for guys out there on the ground.”
Another aspect of III Corps’ mission is to advise and assist Afghan National Security Forces. On June 18, security of the country transitioned into the hands of the Afghans, formally acknowledging the shrinking role of international forces. During the corps’ deployment, the number of American troops in country will drop from 65,000 to 34,000, Milley said before departing Fort Hood.
“We’re helping ensure they have all the tools they need on the battlefield,” Reese said.
He said Afghan forces continue to operate more and more on their own, and conduct after action reviews to determine what they can do better and what they can improve on.
With plenty of work still to be done, Reese said support from families and the greater Fort Hood community help keep troops motivated.
“Keep thinking about us and remembering us,” he said, adding he enjoyed seeing the community welcome home the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team last week. “It’s good to see the community is still opening up its arms and taking care of us as we get home.”