In eight months, Army Corporal Matthew Blows had a unique insight into Afghanistan few others see.
As one of the guardian angels of Force Protection Element 10 (FPE10), the Brisbane-based soldier and his FPE10 colleagues provided Australian advisors with force protection during their train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
Corporal Blows saw first-hand how the advisors’ work was helping Afghanistan to develop a sustainable security force capable of defending the country and its people from insurgents.
“In my position, I got to see the progress our advisors are making and how things are moving in the right direction,” he said.
“Even in my short eight months, I saw progress and I saw the Afghans willing to make a change to benefit the future generations.
“Just seeing the smiles on their faces when they see us or when they come up and shake your hand and thank you was very rewarding.
“It gives you a sense of purpose of why we are here. They don’t really know us but they are happy we are here and happy to see us.”
“Even in my short eight months, I saw progress and I saw the Afghans willing to make a change.”
While deployed, Corporal Blows worked at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University precinct on the outskirts of Kabul.
Australians in the precinct advise and mentor Afghan instructors and key staff at the Afghan National Army Officer Academy, Command Staff Academy and Sergeant Major Academy.
He also worked as a guardian angel at the airfield in Kandahar.
There, Corporal Blows and three other guardian angels provided force protection for the Australian team that trains Afghan Black Hawk pilots and aircrew.
Originally from Melbourne, his training prepared him well for the complex role.
“We have to be switched on and be professional but the training gives us the ability to make the correct decisions and react when we really need to,” he said.
Soldiers from FPE10 returned to Australia in early March. They handed over to FPE rotation 11, which now has responsibility for the force protection of the Australian advisors in Afghanistan.
Operation Highroad is the Australian contribution to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Resolute Support is a non-combat mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Resolute Support has six Train, Advise, Assist Commands or TAACs. They are based throughout Afghanistan. They include Commands of North, South, East, West, Capital (in Kabul) and Air.
The TAAC-Air mission is to help Afghanistan to develop a professional, capable and sustainable air force. Australians embedded in TAAC-Air are located in Kabul and, now, Kandahar.
Australia contributes about 300 Defence personnel to the train, advise and assist mission.