Multi National Base - Tarin Kot in Uruzgan Province is a long way from the suburbs of Brisbane, but for Lance Corporal Michael Pilia’e - Smith, it’s where he currently calls home.
“The place is a hive of activity especially as the base is beginning to draw down as part of redeployment,” Michael said.
The 22 Year old from Enoggera is currently deployed as part of the Australian whole-of-government mission in Afghanistan with the 2 CAV REGT Task Force; providing Force Protection for the members of Security Force Assistance – Advisory Team who work with the Afghan soldiers.
It’s a deployment which is seeing the culmination of a remarkable period in Australia’s ongoing commitment to Afghanistan as the process of Transition enters its final phase, and the Afghan National Army’s 4th Brigade, 205 Hero Corps continue to conduct fully independent operations across Uruzgan province.
“The level of progress made by the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government means that they are in control of the governance and security responsibility for the region,” Michael said.
“Since the start of the Australian mission in Afghanistan, six health facilities across Uruzgan province have now expanded to 29, with another 322 health posts in place.
Infant mortality rates have halved and inoculation against serious diseases has increased from 41 to 66 percent.
School enrolments have risen 98 percent from 19 percent in 2006, and 27 percent of the provincial population have access the clean water; a significant increase from the 8 percent seven years ago.
Added to this is a highly professional and extremely effective National Army or 350,000 soldiers who, nationwide, continue to reduce the footprint of a fractured insurgency.
“The success of the Afghans is the high watermark for the efforts of a lot of remarkable Australians and coalition partners, both military and civilian,” Michael said.
Day-to-day tasks see Michael working closely with the Afghan soldiers and as such, he’s developed some very close friendships and discovered he and the other Australian soldiers have an affinity with them.
“The Afghan soldiers are great, they are always eager to talk and share a laugh,” Michael said.
“I think Australians by our very nature always see the funny side of things and the Afghans are the same.
“When you understand the turmoil many have lived through, you understand the desire to smile and share a laugh.”
Michael previously deployed to East Timor in 2011 and 2013 and likens his preparations for those deployments to his current one.
“Both East Timor and Afghanistan share unforgiving environments, so you need to be able to operate for long periods at peak levels,” Michael said.
“We conducted constant arduous physical training and fine tuned our basic soldiering skills in order to always be prepared for tasks, simple or extremely demanding.”
Michael looks forward to seeing his partner Ashley and his parents Ross and Jayne.
“Being away helps me to appreciate the time spent with family and friends,” Michael said.
“I’m lucky and so are many other soldiers that we have the support we get from home.
“They may not be physically with you, but they are there every inch of the way during the deployment.”