Training the Afghan National Army
July 2009 » By CPT Don Krier
M16 TRAINING—SPC Jeremiah Manning from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Maine Army National Guard, instructs members from Afghan National Army, Kandak 5 on proper M16 firing positions at Camp Hero, Afghanistan. (Photo by CPT Don Krier, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Maine Army National Guard, 27 June 2009)
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (09 JULY 2009) — The ride to Camp Hero is a short one. The 286th CSSB training team travels through the fortified entry control point at Kandahar Airfield, passing a mass of dozen brightly colored jingle trucks lined up along the road. They travel beyond the bombed out rubble of a modern cement apartment complex, what is said to have been Soviet officer's quarters. On both sides of the road is a little shanty market of dilapidated booths, the cluster generically called 'Wal-Mart." They cross a dried up wadi before entering a gate manned by the Afghan National Army (ANA). The trip only takes a few minutes and is just a couple of miles away, but ANA Camp Hero is far from home.
Since June 2009, members from Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) of the 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion (CSSB), Task Force Dirigo, Maine Army National Guard, Bangor, Maine, make this trip three times a week. In addition to their mission of providing sustainment support to the coalition forces of Regional Command South, Afghanistan, these soldiers have volunteered to train members of the Afghan National Army.
"I am hoping that our small contribution will be a multiplier to the strategic objectives of our mission in Afghanistan," explains Major Blair Tinkham, of Orrington, Maine, Executive Officer of the 286th CSSB. The 286th CSSB soldiers, through coordination with the Canadian Forces of an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, train a sister ANA Combat Service Support Battalion, Kandak 5. The 286th provides about eight trainers weekly, to train basic radio communication skills, wrecker recovery operations, an M16 transition course, and convoy procedures.
WRECKER TRAINING—SSG Jesse Cote and SGT Steven Gagnon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Maine Army National Guard, instructs members from Afghan National Army, Kandak 5 on wrecker operations at Camp Hero, Afghanistan. (Photo by CPT Don Krier, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, Maine Army National Guard, 07 July 2009)
Staff Sergeant Jesse Cote, of Caribou Maine, describes training the Afghan Army as unique in his military experience, "you deal with language barriers that you wouldn't ordinarily have to deal with. Start off with patience, in order to accomplish simple tasks; you have to go to great lengths." SSG Cote is the HHC Motor Sergeant, he is training Afghan soldiers on wrecker operations and vehicle recovery.
Over the past three weekends, Specialist Jeremiah Manning, an HHC Mechanic from Bristol Maine, has been instructing Afghan soldiers on basic M16 skills. Manning notes, "We all learn the same way, doesn't matter where you're from." Manning said that working with the Afghans has strengthened his resolve towards the conflict. He said, "I'm surprised at how receptive they are to learn. I didn't think we would be invited."
Major Tinkham is convinced, "there is a need for the US presence in Afghanistan. Through continuous collaboration, the Afghans will be able to secure their borders, improve their governance, and grow their infrastructure." The 286th is taking one more step in that direction.