PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (AFPN) --
Airmen from the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team and Afghan National Police recently roughed each other up here with a little hand-to-hand combat, but all for the sake of training.
Teaching pressure point control tactics to the Afghan police in the Anaba district helps increase the local government's capacity for security, governance and development, said Tech. Sgt. Michael Downey, security forces superintendent and PRT police training and assessment team member.
It's also a deterrent to "the bad guys" who might be watching.
"Every day these guys patrol the streets," said Sergeant Downey, who is deployed from the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and served several years with the Office of Special Investigations. "There are no phones here so people have to come to them for help. [The police] don't always know what they are getting into so the more training they get, the better. And when the citizens see us out here training, they know it too."
He said the techniques they taught the Afghans are appropriate because they require no special equipment, just their hands and quick minds.
"This teaches them how to defend without hurting themselves or the attacker," he said. "Now they can get out of a hold and gain control over whoever attacked them."
Staff Sgt. Andre Sanchez-Romero, a security forces Airman deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., demonstrated various techniques to the policemen, using Zakria, an Afghan interpreter who works with the PRT. The ANP circled around to observe, breaking out in laughter every now and then as Sergeant Sanchez-Romero twisted Zakria into a slow-motion hold.
"Zak's a good sport," said Sergeant Downey of the group's interpreter. "He's critical to our mission success and is always willing to take one for the team."
After the play-by-play demonstration, the Afghans then practiced on each other. Small groups of children gathered to watch, giving other PRT Airmen an opportunity to hand out pens and candy.
Tucked into a valley deep in the Hindu Kush Mountains, the villagers of Anaba and their police chief have established a positive relationship with the PRT members based at nearby Forward Operating Base Lion.
"We get along very well with the people in Anaba," said Sergeant Sanchez-Romero. "We're out here as often as possible, visiting with the police, letting them know we support them. It helps that we have such a good relationship with the police chief."
The police chief, Zardot Towhidi, is a former Northern Alliance mujahideen commander who trained and fought against the Russians and the Taliban with Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance commander who was assassinated by Al-Qaida two days before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"I have immense respect for Zardot," said Lt. Col. Christopher Luedtke, PRT commander who is deployed from Hill AFB, Utah. "When we sit down for lunch, we talk and laugh. Sometimes, we swap war stories. While I can only speak of hugging sandbags in cement bunkers at Balad (Air Base, Iraq) while mortars were coming in, he speaks of tearing down house walls to escape incoming Russians in the snow. He's an incredible leader and a good man."
The colonel said PRT members are able to do their jobs effectively thanks to Zardot and the other ANP in Panjshir.
"Without security, we wouldn't have the freedom of movement," said Colonel Luedtke. "Other PRTs in other provinces have more difficulties because security continues to be an issue. Here, that's not the case. Due to geography and the sheer commitment of the police, we are relatively safe. So, we're able to help the Afghans help themselves rebuild their great country."
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