The Magazine of the NJ National Guard
volume 32 number 1

Guardlife Index

New Jersey Supports Task Force Phoenix
By Sgt.Shawn Morris, 444th MPAD; photo by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDAMAVA/PA
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Deploying Soldiers pose for a photo with N.J. Army National Guard leadership prior to departure for Camp Shelby, Miss.
War is messy business. People die, property is destroyed, and entire nations are thrown into upheaval.

But nations can be rebuilt, property can be repaired and the lives of future generations can be made better.

Ironically, Soldiers are often responsible for both the destruction and reconstruction that are part of modern warfare — Soldiers like the 16 New Jersey Army National Guard members who will join Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in Afghanistan later this month to help with rebuilding efforts in that war-torn country. “The mission of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix is to provide trainers and mentors to help the government of Afghanistan build a professional Afghan National Army (ANA),” according to the Task Force Web site.

This hand-picked team left New Jersey for Camp Shelby, Miss., where its members will train for several weeks before deploying for a one-year tour of duty to Afghanistan, where their real work will begin. “The Soldiers are motivated, our equipment is there and we’re ready to go,” said Col. Michael V. Shute, team leader. “We all want to get in-country and get started,” added Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Flynn, senior NCO.

Shute, Flynn and their fellow team members are part of what’s called an Embedded Training Team (ETT) and will live, train and coexist with the Afghan National Army, helping to mentor that army’s soldiers while helping them plan, conduct and evaluate operations, according to a New Jersey Army National Guard fact sheet.

“ETTs live, train, and deploy on combat missions with their ANA counterparts on a daily basis,” according to the Task Force Phoenix Web site. Sounds like a daunting task, but these 16 New Jersey National Guard Soldiers – who hold Military Occupation Specialties in the infantry, armor, artillery, signal, ordnance and medical branches – have decades of experience to share with Afghan soldiers.

“We’ve got a ton of experience. We’re all mature guys,” said Flynn. This maturity will not only allow the team members to bring years of military and civilian experience to their mission, but will also make them better able to remain calm and focused while the ANA goes through its inevitable growing pains, Flynn explained.

The value of civilian experience in such a mission might explain why the vast majority of Task Force Phoenix’s 2,000 members are National Guard Soldiers from across the United States, with nearly 1,300 coming from the Florida Army National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade and other units.

“It is not just a military mission,” explained Flynn. “We’re looking to help these guys build a nation.”
“That’s probably the most rewarding part of it,” added Sgt. 1st Class Ron Ambrose. “We’re going to bring them the life that we have, which most Americans take for granted.”

These Soldiers are certainly not taking their mission for granted, and seem to understand and appreciate the impact they can have on Afghanistan’s future. “It’s really a privilege for us,” observed Flynn. “It’s a good mission.”
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs