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Spring in Afghanistan heralds fighting season

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By COL. CHRIS TONER
Duke Brigade Commander

Springtime in Afghanistan is almost here, and with the changing of the seasons comes an expected change in the pace of our activities.
What I’m talking about is the upcoming fighting season, the time of year that historically sees a significant increase in enemy activity across our area of operations.
We are fortunate to have arrived here in the winter months when insurgent activity across the area is traditionally low, giving us valuable time to set the campaign strategy for the rest of the year. Not only have we had a chance to learn our AO, but we also had a chance to see just why Task Force Duke serves on the front lines here.
The Afghan people are much like us. What is important in their lives are the same core things, by and large, which are important to the American people. Living without fear in a safe, secure environment, the ability to provide for ones ‘families,’ and hope for the future are among the ideals we share. The pursuit of these ideals helps us maintain our focus, so that our mission not only succeeds here, but succeeds also in preventing the enemies of American liberty from robbing us of these pursuits back home.
In late February I was starkly reminded that, despite the strides made in the decade-long struggle here, there still exists a ruthless enemy who continues to resist the goals of the Afghan people and their government, and fights those of us who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in support of their honorable cause. On Feb. 27, TF Duke saw its first hero added to the list of those making the ultimate sacrifice in defense of freedom.
Sgt. Kristopher Gould, an infantryman assigned to TF Ramrod, died of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device that struck the vehicle he was riding in near Andar in Ghazni Province.
Sgt. Gould was a seasoned combat veteran, having previously deployed to Iraq as an Army reservist in 2005, and then Afghanistan as a member of 2-2 Inf. during the brigade’s deployment in 2008-2009.
What is encouraging to me in light of this tragedy are the words of Sgt. Gould’s own mother upon hearing the news of her son’s passing. Speaking to her hometown paper, Anne Gould said of her son, “This was a job we knew he enjoyed. He was proud to do it and he was good at it.”
I am humbled at the pride of this mother, despite the overwhelming grief she undoubtedly feels at her loss. Anne Gould’s words speak volumes about the man Sgt. Gould was, reflecting the quality, competence, and discipline instilled in all the Soldiers who make up our ranks.
With spring weather almost upon us, one of the few certainties of this war, which I’ve already touched upon, is that fighting season is just around the corner. Our TF Duke Soldiers and commanders have moved now from familiarization to mastery of their respective AOs. The many successful missions already accomplished have only strengthened the confidence we have in our teammates, ourselves, and in our Afghan partners. The wealth of combat experience from those veterans in our ranks, combined with the vigor our newer Soldiers bring to the fight, gives me confidence in the TF Duke mission.
None of our successes in safeguarding the Afghan and American people would have been possible without the wonderful support system back home we TF Duke Soldiers are lucky to enjoy. It’s a combat multiplier hard to quantify, certainly, but such support is immeasurable in my book.
We will never forsake any opportunity to tell the folks back home how much we appreciate their love and support, and how they will always remain in our prayers and memories, especially the family of Sgt. Kristopher Gould.
Duty First!