Army Medic Earns Silver Star

A 19-year-old medic from Lake Jackson, Texas, Spc. Monica Lin Brown, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, is the first woman in Afghanistan-and only the second female soldier since World War II-to earn the Silver Star. In April 2007, Spc. Brown was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling in eastern Afghanistan's Paktia Province when a roadside bomb Struck one of the Humvees, wounding five soldiers in her unit. She ran through insurgent gunfire to reach the casualties, shielded them with her own body from mortars falling less than 100 yards away as she administered first aid, and helped drag them some 500 yards to safety. She treated them on-site before a medevac helicopter arrived.

Although Pentagon policy prohibits women from serving in frontline combat positions, female soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the counterinsurgencies lack real front lines, participate in close-quarters combat more than women did in previous wars. Spc. Brown joined the Army in November 2006 and is expected to leave Afghanistan in April.

"I did not really have time to be scared," she told an Associated Press reporter. "I was in a kind of a robotmode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of."

Army Trains Afghan Police. The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A), headed by Maj. Gen. Robert W. Cone and tasked with training, mentoring and equipping Afghan security forces, has begun a new program-focused district development (FDD)-to train and reform the Afghan National Police. U.S. counterinsurgency doctrine advises that an indigenous security force is generally the best force to use in a counterinsurgency environment, and often that best force is the police because they are local and know the land and people.

Commanders in Afghanistan do not have enough trainers to work with the country's security forces; FDD is designed to concentrate trainers to make the best and most efficient use of them. In addition, Army and Coalition commanders have come to recognize inadequate training, poor equipment and corruption in the Afghan police force. CSTC-A developed the FDD plan to address those issues. It is a reform by the Afghan Ministry of the Interior to improve the national police force district by district.

FDD withdraws the police of one district at a time, replacing them temporarily with Afghan National Civil Order Police, who are generally not from the same region. The district police are all retrained together as a cohesive unit for eight weeks at one of eight regional training centers throughout the country. Exercises include mounted and dismounted patrols, station security tasks, and urban and village operations. The first classes graduated in late February-259 Afghan National Police from Zabul Province graduated in Kandahar; 143 from the Bala-Beluk district graduated in Herat, in western Afghanistan.

In the next phase of FDD, the graduates will be reinstated into their home districts, which takes about a week. Police mentoring teams, composed of American and Coalition soldiers, will then accompany and work with them in the field for two to four months.

Col. James Klingaman, commander of Afghan Regional security Integration Command-West, one of five commands that support the mission of the CSTC-A, explained the pros and cons of the strategy in a Pentagon news briefing in February. The retrained police "know the terrain and the people," he said. "And of course, [one] of the cons [is] that ... if they were corrupt, they may tend to go back to their old ways, which is one of the reasons, in addition to the training, they get some very close mentorship as well as nationally vetted leadership as part of this program."

Police in seven of Afghanistan's 365 districts have begun training; completing it in all districts will take about four years. The United States spent $2.5 billion on the police in Afghanistan in fiscal year (FY) 2007 and will spend at least $800 million in FY 2008.

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