Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pulse of Afghanistan

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Pulse of Afghanistan

Article excerpt

Army Col. Paul Reese, who grew up in St. Louis, has a rare view of Afghanistan. In Kabul, he stands in the middle of an operations room that has a flood of information flowing in 24 hours a day. Reese and his team try to keep track of all the incidents that happen in the war-torn country.

He's also involved with helping Afghan National Security Forces take charge. The ANSF is doing more, but still isn't on its own. Some 90,000 coalition troops remain in Afghanistan, including service members from the U.S. and several other countries like France and Mongolia.

A significant U.S. troop drawdown is expected by February, but it's still unclear what American involvement in Afghanistan will look like after that.

Reese, 45, who was previously deployed in Operation Desert Storm as well as to Bosnia and Baghdad, recently visited with the Post- Dispatch by telephone and gave a glimpse of what he sees.

Let's get this one over with and move on since every other St. Louis native who reads this will want to know. What high school did you go to?

Christian Brothers College high school, back before they moved out to the county.

That's not going to do it then. Which parish did you grow up in?

Our Lady of Sorrows in south city.

Now you are the Combined Joint Operations Center Director for NATO's International Security Assistance Force Joint Command. That's official military-speak to say what?

Myself and the team that I have about 120 folks from 14 or 15 different nations we track all the activities and any events that go on here in Afghanistan. It all comes together in one room so we can share information very quickly and come up with quick decisions.

What happened today?

We had some IEDs. We had two or three operations that the Afghans were leading that we were monitoring very closely.

How are the incidents reported to you? Tracking everything that goes on in Afghanistan seems like a lot.

It is a lot. We have a lot of systems, as you can imagine. Digital maps. We can pull in the feeds from our various airplanes or (drones) that are flying around to help us see what is going on. A lot of our reporting will come from the individual regional commands. We kind of put it all together in one picture.

What's your biggest frustration from doing your job?

Seeing casualties is always the hardest part of the job out here. We see a lot of the Afghan soldiers who are dying for their country, and we unfortunately see a lot of the Afghan civilians who are getting killed.

You work seven days a week. What kind of hours?

It's a 12-hour shift. There's always a couple of hours plus or minus to that.

So energy drinks, coffee or something else to keep you going?

Nothing beats a good brewed cup of coffee, especially when it starts getting cold over here.

How are you helping Afghan National Security Forces?

We partner with the like headquarters from the Afghans. …

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