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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | Feb. 3, 2011

Virginia National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division mentors making a difference in Afghanistan

By Army Lt. Col. Tim Donnellan 29th Infantry Division

KABUL, Afghanistan - Several officers of the 29th Infantry Division are working as mentors and advisors within the Afghan Ministry of Defense at the National Military Command Center.

They mentor officers of NMCC’s Joint Operations Center across all the functional areas of operations, training, logistics, intelligence, planning and personnel, and their hard work has led to improvements within the Afghan Army Headquarters.

Army Lt. Col Paul Loftus is assigned as the Mentor/Advisor to the Director of Operations for the NMCC.

"Our relationship has grown quickly, in part, because we share common goals such as improving communications and reporting procedures, and our Afghan counterparts are very receptive to our suggestions," said Loftus. "It is a great experience to work side by side with the Afghans and NATO collation forces."

"Shohna ba Shohna" means "shoulder to shoulder" in English and is reflective of how things get accomplished at the NMCC.

The National Military Command Center is the higher headquarters for the Afghan National Army, with representatives from all major commands and support elements.

"It is rewarding to share ideas with the Afghans, many who have years of combat experience. It is really a two-way street of information flow," said Loftus.

Members of the 29th Infantry Division enjoy learning about the culture and language. Working next to someone who speaks a different language can be a challenge, but there are translators working at NMCC who interpret the conversations.

"I enjoy learning the language and interacting with the Afghans, and we try to teach each other a new phrase each day,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Walker, senior operations sergeant.

“Sometimes my pronunciation isn't correct, but I strive every day to get better at it. Learning the language has made me feel more accepted by the Afghans, but I think they respect the fact that I am taking the time to learn their language.”

Working with the Afghans is not the only exposure to new cultures.

More than 49 nations contribute to the International Security Assistance Forces Coalition in Afghanistan.

"I work with soldiers from Italy, France, Canada, Turkey, Great Britain, and we all get along and learn from each other,” said Walker.

The NMCC Mentor/Advisors are part of the 29th Infantry Division Headquarters Security Partnering group deployed to Afghanistan until the fall of 2011. The 29th ID Security Partnering work is not limited to just the NMCC. They perform vital roles including current and future planning of the Afghan Security Forces.