This article was originally published on dvidshub.net on April 19, 2016.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska — Two Alaska Army National Guardsmen deployed to Afghanistan earlier this month as U.S. liaisons in support of the Mongolian Expeditionary Task Forces in Afghanistan.
Capt. Collin Welch, 1-297th Reconnaissance and Surveillance Squadron, and Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Ring, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), are the twelfth team from the AKARNG to pair with the METF since the arrangement began in 2009. They will serve as tactical advisors and liaisons in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
As liaisons, the team will be the METF’s direct link to the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the Base Support Group at the New Kabul Compound in Kabul, Afghanistan, and other sites in the country.
Welch, of Eagle River, and Ring, of Anchorage, departed Alaska in late March for Fort Bliss, Texas, where they completed approximately two weeks of pre-mobilization training before leaving for Kabul, where they will be deployed for six to nine months.
“We will be the direct link between U.S. Central Command and the Mongolian Armed Forces,” said Welch, who deployed for a similar mission in Africa when he was a member of the Kansas Army National Guard in 2010.
In Africa, Welch’s unit conducted stability operations to help strengthen partner nation security capacity and protect U.S. and Coalition interests.
“On the stability operations mission, we worked with foreign militaries doing military-to-military training,” said Welch. “It seemed like a natural progression to take on another partner nation building mission.”
“I’ve never been to Mongolia, but I love learning about new cultures,” explained Welch, who is looking forward to working with his Mongolian counterparts.
Since 2003, the Alaska State Partnership Program has continuously developed and maintained a relationship with the MAF. From deployments to Iraq, where the AKARNG provided liaison officers to partner with METF there, to many joint military exercises and personnel exchanges, Alaska Guardsmen have provided helpful and relevant insight and training to the METF.
“I am very excited about this opportunity,” said Ring, who worked with the MAF in 2013 and 2014 during the multinational peacekeeping exercise, Khaan Quest, held annually near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
“I have worked alongside the Mongolians in both command post and field training exercises,” explained Ring. “It’s great that I can take what I’ve learned training there and apply it to a real world mission in Afghanistan.”
The strong relationship between Mongolia and the AKARNG prompted the MAF, when they volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan, to request liaison officers from the AKARNG to facilitate their communication and cooperation between the U.S. and NATO elements there.
Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the new U.S. mission in Afghanistan focusing on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces. It is the follow-on to Operation Enduring Freedom, the 13-year combat mission that began in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.