LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan -- Having a clear operational picture and understanding of what’s going on around the battlespace is an important part of being able to positively assist the forces on the ground.
U.S. Marines with Task Force Southwest have made it their mission to bring Helmand Province into focus for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces utilizing the Operational Coordination Center – Regional at Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, since they took the helm back in April of 2017.
They have improved the OCC-R substantially, teaching classes and bringing the OCC-R into the 21st century with computers and modern software, allowing the ANDSF to accurately and efficiently create a clear picture of Helmand.
“What the OCC-R does is it enables coordination efforts among all ANDSF units,” said Maj. Paul Rivera, an advisor with Task Force Southwest. “And what they’re supposed to do, with that coordination effort, is to maintain a joint common operational picture of what their battlespace or their area of operation is supposed to be. Whether that is a natural disaster, a convoy, air or ground units, enemy contact, official meetings, or a local festival, just making sure that they have an understanding of what’s going on within their area of responsibility.”
With the OCC-R being staffed around the clock with Marines and ANDSF, they maintain a clear operational picture at all times, ensuring that the ground forces receive additional assistance if needed.
“Sometimes when there is enemy fighting at one of our checkpoints, we inform our friendly forces”, said Ghulam Rasul Andrabi, a non-commissioned officer with 5th Brigade, Afghan National Civil Order Police. “When the fighting is severe we will request Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR), and when there are convoys or various movements going on for resupply, we inform our advisors and the related units.”
When the Marines began their train, advise and assist mission back in April, one of the key focuses was to teach their counterparts how to achieve success with Afghan solutions, with the aim to have the ANDSF completely autonomous with little to no help from another military force.
“Ever since the Marines with the Task Force showed up, the Tactical Operations Center became active again, modern computer systems were brought in”, said Andrabi. “The most important thing is that the Marines taught us how to track convoys, as well as plot and clear grids utilizing the computers. This now allows us to work on our own.”
The introduction of computer’s to the OCC-R mission has streamlined and improved the accuracy of the processes. According to Rivera, what initially took two hours to clear a grid is now taking an average of 15 minutes.
“We changed the game from using a terrain model and saying, ‘I think our forces are over here,’” said Rivera. “In six months, we have modernized their simple process of using hard copy maps and actually, in a digital arena, we’ve been able to link computers and satellites to create a modernized common operational picture that can aid commanders on the ground with accurate positions. This effort has given our ANDSF partners the edge they need to defeat the enemy.”
Rivera says that he hopes the knowledge and experience gained here spreads to other units and to other ANDSF members, further increasing their capabilities of communication, fires, supply and sustainment which will give them an edge throughout the battlespace.