COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We're making progress. That's the word from the commander of the 218th Brigade of the South Carolina National Guard.
The 1,800 member unit is halfway through their year-and-a-half deployment to Afghanistan. WIS News 10's Jennifer Wilson talked by satellite Friday with Brigadier General Bob Livingston, and got a glimpse of the work being done.
In dusty terrain, the 218th is hard at work training the Afghanistan military. "It is an honor to lead this group of dedicated warriors," says their commander, Brigadier General Bob Livingston of Columbia.
He's proud of accomplishments so far. "The Army and police are becoming more effective, the Taliban less effective, and they have a lot of discord in their ranks."
He says the Afghan military takes a greater lead each day. He believes some parts will be independent by spring, when the 218th is ready to leave. "We have a long way to go, but we see an amazing transformation that is accelerating."
But it has not been without struggle. The 218th has lost two of South Carolina's bravest. Sergeant Edward Philpot of Latta died when his convoy vehicle overturned. Staff Sergeant James David Bullard died in an ambush. Brigadier General Livingston says, "No death is acceptable, but these brave warriors have not died in vain."
So the 218th focuses on positives - not only in fighting terrorism, but in humanitarianism.
Brigadier General Livingston is thankful for the supplies donated to them, "I want to take this opportunity to express heartfelt thanks on behalf of our entire task force to the people of South Carolina for their support."
And they're thankful for what they enjoy at home. "That's why we're here, why we're members of the SCNG, give back the gifts we're given."
The 218th did take some time off to enjoy Thanksgiving. Soldiers enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, with turkey and trimmings, in a chow hall decorated in what Livingston called a "Mayflower" theme. "A good time was had by all. We all ate too much like we do at home."
He said there was also a rifle range competition, and a "turkey run" road race.
Reported by Jennifer Wilson