SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Special Report

September 8, 2011

Beverly soldier in Afghanistan still on guard

Beverly serviceman reflects on changes

When the second plane struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the phone rang almost immediately in the command post at Fort Carson, Colo.

A young lieutenant named Jason Galui answered the call.

Galui grew up on Liberty Street in Beverly. He was a star goaltender at the Pingree School in Hamilton who was recruited to play hockey for Army at West Point.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, he was in charge of gate security at Fort Carson. He was ordered to close the gates, arm the guards and prepare for the possible arrival of the president of the United States, who was on his way to a nearby secure location.

As Galui was inspecting Gate 1, he ran into Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, Fort Carson's post commander.

"Who's the OIC (officer in charge) here?" Soriano said.

"I am," Galui responded.

Soriano grabbed Galui by the shirt and said, "Well, protect this post. Nothing better happen to my soldiers."

Ten years later, Galui is still on guard. He is now a 34-year-old major serving in Afghanistan as a strategic adviser to Lt. Gen. Bill Caldwell, commanding general of the NATO Training Mission, the coalition of 19 countries charged with training Afghan security forces.

In a telephone interview from Afghanistan, Galui said the U.S. military and NATO are making progress on their goal of turning the country over to Afghan control by the end of 2014.

When the NATO training began in 2009, nine out of 10 members of the Afghan Security Force were illiterate, Galui said.

"You're telling them to load nine out of 10 rounds into a chamber, and they can't do it because they can't count, either," he said.

Now, Afghan soldiers and police officers receive 64 hours of literacy training, with the goal of reaching first-grade level by the time they finish basic training, Galui said. That standard will be increased to third grade by 2014.

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