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Afghan Artillerymen graduate with a bang

By 1st Lt. Christine Rosalin , 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Hawaii)

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FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan (July 10, 2012) — Instead of launching fireworks this 4th of July, members of the Afghan National Army fired high explosive and white phosphorous smoke rounds using a D-30, or Soviet 122 mm Howitzer, during a culminating training event at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Afghanistan. 

The culminating event concluded 16 weeks of partnered training with their U.S. counterparts which led to over 50 Soldiers of the Afghan Army’s 4th Kandak, D-30 Artillery Battery,  graduating from a D-30J Gunline Procedure Course of the ANA School of Artillery July 4, 2012.

“This training provides their Army with more legitimacy and reduces their dependence on coalition forces,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jonathan Collette, Fire Direction Center instructor, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade. “It also inspires confidence in (the) Afghan Army and the civilian population sees their own army shooting artillery and it builds support.”

The goal of this partnership mission is to build indirect fire capacity and enable long-term success of Afghan National Security Forces.

“It is also creating Afghan solutions to Afghan problems by providing Afghan troops with Afghan fire power,”  said Collette. “This training seriously benefited the Afghan army overall. Field artillery is essential to any modern army because of its ability to deliver effects into a huge battle space, albeit high explosives, smoke, or illumination.”

They fired illumination shells and provided light effects for night-time operations in their area two weeks after we finished training in Tarin Kowt,” said Collette.

Additionally they picked up the concepts faster and faster as the training went on, added Collette.  “We were constantly surprised by how easily they understood all the concepts, because certain concepts seem to baffle Americans going through the FA (field artillery) school house.”

The concepts in the program included map reading and plotting points, determining the battery location without a GPS, determining distance and direction to a target location, mathematics and interpolation, reading a tabular firing table and radio communications with the observers, said Collette.  “We also instructed how to correct for charge temperature, how to use illumination and smoke shells, and how to issue to fire commands to the gun-line efficiently.”

Initially, the ANA Soldiers seemed uncertain of either us or the training that we were giving them, but over time they seemed to enjoy themselves, said Collette. “We engaged them in a lot of conversation using broken Dari and they seemed to warm up to us pretty quickly.   We were surprised to find that a lot of them spoke a ton of English to the point that we could almost teach a class completely in English to certain soldiers…we treated them with respect and simply talked to them and we had great success.”

Our follow on unit, the mentor team from the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, will continue to mentor and teach them more advanced concepts of field artillery when we’re gone, said Collette.

“My unit,  1-37 FA, has partnered up in this program for about a month now,” said Sgt.  Joshua Oberlies, howitzer section chief, 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regt. “The mentorship roll we have with the ANA will allow for them to pass what they learn to their own soldiers in the future. The ANA’s ability to be able to train and certify their own Soldiers as Artillery men is our ultimate goal here.”

“When we leave here we want the ANA to be fully capable of stepping up and conducting their own training in order to facilitate their mission requirements,” said Oberlies.

The performance of the ANA during the certification process proved this goal is possible. “We believe that this is a reachable goal and look forward to our continuing partnership with them.”