TAMPA — The one-page handwritten letter now seems as haunting as it was heartfelt.
In February, Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, deputy commanding general of a mission to train Afghans, expressed his thanks for boxes of treats sent by a Wesley Chapel organization to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, where he used to serve.
But in that letter, written Feb. 24, Greene also explained his mission, saying, “We are making noticeable progress in developing the” Afghan National Security Forces.
On Tuesday, near Kabul, the Pentagon says someone believed to be one of those security forces shot and killed Greene, 55, and wounded as many as 15 others.
Greene was the highest ranking U.S. military officer killed in action overseas since the Vietnam War.
Before he became deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Greene served at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds. An organization there forwarded to Afghanistan four boxes of treats that included goodies received from Operation Support The Troops, a Wesley Chapel-based group that has shipped out about 600 tons of snacks, toiletries and other goods to troops around the world.
The Aberdeen group had received several shipments from Wesley Chapel over the years, said Mark Van Trees, who has been running the organization, headquartered in the Sifter Parts and Services warehouse, since founder Bob Williams was injured in January 2012.
The four boxes of those goodies that arrived in Greene's office in Afghanistan “greatly improved” morale, Greene wrote to the Aberdeen support group.
“I enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) some of the treats (especially the Girl Scout cookies), but I took the boxes to our staff meeting yesterday,” he wrote, adding that he also sent along pictures of the “mayhem that followed as the staff dove in to get treats to share with the team.”
Greene closed out his letter by explaining his job in Afghanistan, which was to help train indigenous forces to provide their own security after the bulk of U.S. forces leave at the end of the year.
There are about 30,000 troops now in Afghanistan and President Barack Obama has stated that if and when the next Afghan president signs a mutual security pact with the United States, 9,800 U.S. troops would remain, mostly to help train Afghans. About 1,000 commandos — half of those expected under the Obama plan — would also engage in counterterror missions.
“Some of you may wonder how the mission is going,” Greene wrote. “Our organization is charged to equip and support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). We are a joint organization, with members of all 4 services working together toward a common goal. You would be proud of them and their efforts. We are making noticeable progress developing the ANSF. You should be especially proud of the people — service members, government civilians and contractors dedicated to improving the ANSF. They are true patriots and remarkably capable.”
After Greene was killed while visiting the The Marshal Fahim National Defense University in Kabul, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby held a press conference and said the mission Greene wrote about remains on track despite what appears to be a so-called “green-on-blue” insider attack that remains under investigation.
“The Afghan National Security Forces continue to perform at a very strong level of competence and confidence, and warfare capability,” said Kirby, who at the Pentagon press conference did not mention Greene by either name nor his specific rank. “They have had a good year securing not one, but two national elections, and stopping or minimizing the impact of countless numbers of attacks throughout the country, even in Kabul...So, this is a security force that we believe grows stronger by the week and they are already in the lead in combat missions throughout the country. They'll be completely in the lead for military operations by the end of the year. We see no change in that, no degradation of that progress.”