As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the Communications Support Unit (CSU) is three companies of well-led ANA communicators, trained to deploy and quickly set up fully functional command centers. Anytime, anywhere.
Earlier this month, they did exactly that! On 16 January, the unit deployed elements of Aleph Company to Rish Khvor, just south of Kabul, to provide direct support for the ANA’s Commando Brigade Headquarters as they get ready for upcoming operations in central Helmand.
Previously, the Commando Brigade Headquarters only had radio communications. For anything but short messages to and from the National Military Command Center (NMCC), they had to send runners–almost a 2-hour convoy. Within a day though, the Commandos had video teleconference, telephone, and commercially encrypted data capabilities. Only two days into the deployment, these links were used operationally, connecting Commando leaders with the NMCC to help put down the 18 January insurgent attacks in Kabul. Finally, within three days, the Commandos were at “full operational capability”, with 25 phones and 18 laptops operating throughout their headquarters.
The unit’s support during the attacks in Kabul was a Seriously Big Deal – the first operational deployment of the unit, ever. But as perhaps an Even Bigger Deal, this was the unit’s first-ever NCO-only deployment. I have a small team of eight military advisers that work with the 400+ members of the CSU. They’ve been pushing hard lately to develop the unit NCOs as leaders, and training the Afghan officers to trust their NCOs. It appears those efforts are actually paying off!
Coincidentally, on 16 January elements of Bey Company deployed as well. They traveled to Pol-E-Charki, east of Kabul, with field phones and switchboards to support an Army Command and Staff Exercise for the 215th Corps. The 215th is a new unit, developed specifically to partner with the Marine Expeditionary Brigade in Helmand. During this period, Jeem Company remained on “ready alert” to support the NMCC or emerging taskings…for example, CSU planners are now working with Coalition SOF, the Commando Brigade, and the Afghan Ministry of Defense to deploy communications capability for Commando units working from Khandahar.
Bottom line: Only 5 years ago, the Communications Support Unit was a good idea, a funding line, and three ANA soldiers living in a bombed-out building, hunting for firewood. Today, it’s an amazingly capable unit, on par with the best deployable comm units in the world. And it’s an honor and a privilege to be part of that evolution.
* Photos by ET1 Peterson, USN