Sgt. Julieanne Morse
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan (June 3, 2013) – Thirteen Afghan National Army soldiers completed two weeks of 60mm mortar training with a ceremony on Forward Operating Base Airborne, June 3.
U.S. Soldiers from Company C, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, taught ANA soldiers how to fire 60mm mortars, using conventional and handheld methods, to increase the ANA’s capabilities on the battlefield.
The 60mm Lightweight Company Mortar System is made up of a tube, a base plate and a bipod assembly. The entire system, not including ammunition, weighs appoximately 46.5 pounds and can easily be carried by one or two people for short distances.
Using the conventional method, the bipod is used to stabilize the system pushing the maximum effective range to 3,490 meters.
Both the conventional and handheld methods allow for speed in engaging a target.
“Mortars are a good asset,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Harold Wideman, an advisor during the mortar training and an indirect fire infantryman with Co. C., “and if they use them correctly, then they should have no problems at all.”
Staff Sgt. Ferdinand Fernandez, the primary instructor for the mortar training and an indirect fire infantryman with Co. C., said the ANA soldiers showed improvement from where they started before the training.
ANA Sgt. 1st Class Abdul Samed Mohammady with the 2nd Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, said the ANA soldiers, who attened the training, didn’t know how to use the 60mm mortars before the training and were happy to know how to use them correctly now.
Fernandez said the ANA were fully mission capable and he expected senior noncommissioned officers to go back and teach other soldiers. “That way we multiply the knowledge and combat power across the kandak,” the Ponce, Puerto Rico, native added.
Mohammady said he hopes to teach the other ANA soldiers in his kandak what he has learned.
The relationship between ANA and U.S. Forces continues to grow as the ANA also grow and take full security responsibility ahead of the U.S. Forces scheduled leave in 2014.
“I really enjoy working with them,” said Fernandez. “My guys actually have a lot of fun working with them.”
“We are working to better the country,” added Wideman, a Baltimore native.
Sgt. Julieanne Morse
129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (July 4, 2013) – It is often stated in the military that less than one percent of the American people serve, in order to encourage U.S. service members to take pride in their service.
Some of the service members who give their time to serve the United States aren’t U.S. citizens, like U.S. Army Pvt. Robby Paz, who recently became a U.S. citizen at a naturalization ceremony on Bagram Airfield, July 4.
Paz was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and grew up in El Salvador.
He moved to Pasadena, Calif., in 1999 and graduated from John Muir High School in 2011.
In August 2012, Paz enlisted in the U.S. Army as an infantryman.
"I wanted to do something that I could be proud of," said Paz. “I wanted to be a part of freedom. Not just be part of it, but fight for it.”
In November 2012, he began the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States. At that time, not assigned to a permanent duty station yet, he said he never thought he’d be naturalized while serving overseas.
Stationed at Combat Outpost Dashe Towp, Wardak province, Paz is now serving with Company A, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and is currently the driver for his platoon leader.
“We usually try to pick the most experienced people that we trust to actually drive since the terrain is not exactly user friendly,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Kenton Gottshall, a squad leader with Co. A. “It's a pretty big responsibility for him since he is the lowest ranking driver that we have."
Inspite of being the lowest ranking driver, he is a valuable member of the team.
“Serving with him, I'd have him by my side any day of the week out in combat," said Gottshall, a Woodstock, Ga., native.
The process to become a U.S. citizen is no easy task, especially while serving in combat overseas.
“By virtue of their current honorable service deployed overseas, they are given the privilege of taking the oath of citizenship overseas,” said Walter Haith, field office director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Manila, Philippines.
“Once they make their application, the application is vetted for a series of checks,” said Haith. “After those checks are clear, those applications are presented to us so that we can schedule and conduct an interview. During the interview, we ask a number of questions as to their personal and professional history and make sure that they understand the oath of citizenship that they are to take.”
Thirty-seven service members, including Paz, completed the requirements to become naturalized at the ceremony on Independence Day.
The service members recited the Oath of Allegiance and then the Pledge of Allegiance before receiving their certificates.
"Being naturalized on the 4th of July here at Bagram, is amazing,” said Paz. “It's unique. I wasn't expecting it. This is pretty outstanding."
"For him to step up, put our uniform on and do our job before he even became a naturalized citizen just shows that he actually wanted it more than probably anybody else, and he is most deserving to have become a citizen today,” said Gottshall.
Paz attributes his success to his mother, Elsy Ortiz, a hard-working, single mom who raised him.
"I thank her for everything; for the opportunities she gave me,” said Paz.
He said his mom would often tell him, “Don’t let anyone set a limit on you. Go as far as you can and don’t ever give up.”
Staff Sgt. Elvis N. Umanzor
4th IBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. Public Affairs
Lt. Col. Joel Smith, right, and Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Parker, left, the command team for the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, uncase the battalion colors during a transfer of responsibility ceremony in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, March 15. The ceremony marked the 3-15 IN’s responsibility for the U.S. partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces in the province, following the nine-month deployment of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Vicenza, Italy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elvis N. Umanzor, 4th IBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. Public Affairs)