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Using GPS to Save Lives

Within the last month, there has been great progress with the Afghan Border Police (ABP) in Kandahar using GPS devices to pinpoint dangerous locations in order to remove life threatening roadside bombs and to link up with other police members during critical times when assistance was needed. The problem was addressed a couple months ago when the police found themselves in a jam without the proper resources to fix the problem. Insurgents attacked an area near a checkpoint, so a quick reaction force was dispatched as backup. However, the team could not locate the unit in trouble. The U.S. Security Forces Advisory Team (SFAT) working with the police decided to send out air assets as well, but still no one could find the group who asked for help. Eventually, the attack ended without any additional support and fortunately without serious incident, but it served as a prime example of how the ABP needed some simple tools that could save them time and resources and could also protect lives.

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At the end of October, Spirit of America decided to help the SFAT and their Afghan counterparts by quickly outfitting them with some handheld GPS devices that the checkpoint commanders could use and maintain in order to ensure greater mission success. With 26 checkpoints to oversee, the ABP have a lot of ground to cover thus making it difficult to pin down key areas of interest. Now with this new resource and after some rudimentary training, the Afghans can accurately specify to their teammates and to coalition forces where improvised explosive device (IEDs) or insurgents are localized. They are able to read off the coordinates from the GPS to the SFAT so they can use a map to find the correct sites and support the police with taking out/reducing threats.

A couple weeks ago the SFAT Commander sent a great update regarding the success of GPS implementation. The APB had let him know that there was an IED on a road that they and USF always use to get back and forth to base. The police had blocked civilian traffic but could not remove it from the culvert it was in. They were not able to specify its exact position but only the name of the village so the Afghan operations officer headed to the general site with GPS in hand. He called the SFAT with the precise grid, and as a result, only a small disposal team was sent instead of the large route clearance package that is normally used.

With disaster averted, coalition forces and the police were able to continue conducting patrols in a timely manner as they did not have to spend hours waiting for the route clearance group. Additionally, this operation with the APB in charge served as a positive step towards increasing the public's confidence in Afghan Security Forces. As of November 15th, the APB have effectively detected and removed 4 IEDs with the help of GPS. This important tool has aided in significantly improving the operational capabilities of the Afghans thereby easing the important task of transition.

Chrissy Burbach
Afghanistan Field Rep

No endorsement of Spirit of America by the US Department of Defense or its personnel is intended or implied.