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Australian soldiers train Afghan heavy weapons platoon on mortar course

By Spc. Nevada Jack Smith , 117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment (Hawaii)

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TARIN KOT, Afghanistan (August 2, 2012) — The thundering blast of mortar fire filled the air as Afghan National Army soldiers sent rounds down range during the validation portion of a mortars course taught at Patrol Base Sorkh Bid, Afghanistan, July 28.

ANA soldiers from 6th Kandak, Heavy Weapons Platoon participated in the course, which started July 21 and was instructed by Mentor Team Bravo of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) Task Group. 

During the training the ANA soldiers were taught how to operate 82mm mortars.

“When they came to the class I think that only two of them have ever touched a mortar before and since then they have picked the skills up really well,” said Australian Cpl. Dane Farquhar, the Mentor Team Bravo soldier in charge of the course’s training schedule.

The 6th Kandak has never possessed mortars in the past, which makes the additional equipment and training a boon for all of the ANA operating in the Uruzgan province.

“It’s a force multiplier, so it will enable them to use it to support their own troops when they are conducting operations,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Casey, a member of Mentor Team Bravo.

The ANA soldiers will have the capability to affect the battlefield by using a technique called direct lay.

“Direct lay is when the mortar is not used indirectly, but when the target is within the firers direct line of sight,” Casey said.

“If they can get a sight picture on the enemy they can put rounds down on that enemy,” Farquhar said.

Since the start of the course the ANA soldiers of Heavy Weapons Platoon have grown in their proficiency and tactical knowledge.

“I think in the week we have been teaching them they have become extremely proficient. Its not the most difficult thing to learn, but they are grasping it very quickly and performing very well,” Casey said. “Its important because it is one more thing they can do independent of us using their own organic fire support.”

These leaps in knowledge were made even with the challenge of equipment differences and language barriers.

“It surprised me how well they picked up the ranging system on the sight since it isn’t in their language; they are very adaptable,” Farquhar said.

The ANA soldiers who received the training were more than grateful for the opportunity to learn and improve their soldiering skills.

“[My platoon] has learned very well from our Australian brothers in combat. We are very thankful to get this training and have this equipment to use,” said 1st. Lt. Zabih Mohammad Akbar, platoon leader, 6th Kandak, Heavy Weapons Platoon.

The 6th Kandak is currently planning and conducting their own operations. This training will enable them to have another way to support their patrols within Uruzgan and greatly benefit them in the long run as coalition forces continue their withdrawal.

When asked how he felt about the soldiers he helped train Farquhar was heard to say, “I don’t think they will have any problems maintaining the standard once we leave.”