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A former Campbellsville man is training members of the Afghan National Police and Army in Western Afghanistan.
Maj. Brian S. DeMers has been deployed overseas since January as a member of the Kentucky National Guard in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
He is the son of Celia DeMers of Campbellsville and a 1981 graduate of Campbellsville High School. His wife, Debbie Bertram DeMers, is also a 1981 CHS graduate.
DeMers, an engineer, is part of a team from the Kentucky National Guard that is spread over the Western provinces of Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The team's mission is to train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces to conduct independent, counter-insurgency and security operations in Afghanistan in order to defeat terrorism and provide a secure, stable environment within the borders of Afghanistan.
Once the country is stable, DeMers says, other organizations will be able to improve the infrastructure throughout the country, enabling the people to start improving their lifestyles and living conditions beyond the subsistence type of culture they have now.
DeMers said the team conducts its mission in a myriad of ways from direct involvement in training and mentoring during missions to staff support in logistics and engineering.
"The mission is a true joint effort between nations and services," DeMers said. "I work side by side on a daily basis with the British, Spaniards, Italians, Slovians and Afghans while at the same time having a team composed of sailors, airmen and soldiers. This is a real equal opportunity mission."
The languages and the technical terms are vastly different between the various service men and women.
"I am not only having to learn Dari but also Italian and Spanish," he said. "It really has stretched my communication skills."
The type of missions the team is conducting requires it to cover about 62,000 square miles, DeMers said, which is about one and a half times the area of Kentucky. The terrain ranges from high mountain passes to open desert and temperatures from 130 to -30 degrees. It is a two-day drive to reach some of the bases from the headquarters in the best of conditions.
"This is real four-wheel drive country that challenges the best of our Humvee drivers," he said.
As part of his travels around the area, DeMers said he has met and seen many once-in-a-lifetime events.
"I have stood in a poppy field during harvest season and talked with the farmers. I have personally met a former Afghan warlord and we talked like we were longtime friends."
He said he has found the Afghan people friendly and eager to share what meager possessions they have.
"They are a very simple people," he said. "It has really made me think about all the excess stuff that I have in my life that I really don't need."
DeMers said he experienced a special moment during the trip overseas.
"I had the opportunity to attend a worship service in a former Soviet Republic. That is one thing I never imagined I would ever be able to do in my lifetime."
DeMers expects to return to his family and home around the first of the year.