May 13, 2013 —
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan – Sergeant First Class Jamal Nasir knew the time would come when the Afghan National Security Forces would take the lead of security in Afghanistan. While serving as an Afghan National Army commando, Nasir said he saw the transition slowly unfold. Nasir fought alongside Marines in Helmand Province for four years and watched as they gradually shifted the responsibility of leading daily patrols to the Afghans.
Now, the time has come for Nasir to take the lead. As an explosive ordinance technician with the 7th Brigade Afghan National Civil Order of Police, Nasir has been given the responsibility to teach others within his unit.
Nasir and Sergeant Second Class Najibullah Rasooli are being evaluated as they teach the monthlong Explosive Hazard Reduction Course throughout May. At the end of the evaluation period, they hope to be certified as instructors and make the transition from solely knowing their job to teaching other police officers how to do their job. It’s a role Nasir takes very seriously and is happy to accept.
“I can find and disarm IEDs on my own,” said Nasir. “But, I have to start telling others how to do it. I know I have to train [fellow police officers] to help Afghanistan become better. So, I will do whatever it takes.”
Nasir and Rasooli are assigned to the 7th Brigade’s Special Services Kandak, or battalion. The kandak is comprised of 44 policemen whose sole job is to train and educate the brigade’s policemen throughout Helmand Province. Courses offered by the kandak include explosive hazard reduction, special weapons and tactics, riot control, close-quarters combat and others.
Gunnery Sgt. Justin K. Robertson, an EOD technician with 2nd Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2, and a West Paducah, Ky., native, is responsible for guiding and evaluating Nasir and Rasooli. Robertson is not teaching them how to disarm or detect improvised explosive devices; rather, he is showing them how to teach effectively.
This method, known as “train the trainer,” has become widely used in Afghanistan by Security Force Assistance personnel. According to Robertson, the idea is simple; teach critical capabilities to select ANA soldiers and Afghan policemen who can then train others. It is an important strategy and one in which the success of the Afghan National Security Forces is dependent on as coalition troops draw down in Afghanistan.
If Robertson certifies Nasir and Rasooli as instructors, they will travel throughout the province teaching kandak policemen the Explosives Hazards Reduction Course (EHRC). The course will train policemen how detect and dispose of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) properly.
Robertson observed the instructors for the first few days. He was looking for the instructors’ strengths and weaknesses. He said the ANCOP instructors were “doing a great job, teaching the correct information and showing pictures of different types of IEDs,” but all the instruction was inside a classroom and “not outside where most of it needed to be.”
One day while the instructors were teaching, Robertson left the classroom, went outside and set up a mock-IED based off one in the instructors’ period of instruction. He wanted to demonstrate a “remote pull” technique. The method is typically used when an IED is found and the EOD technician throws a grappling hook past the IED detonation wires, slowly pulls hook back to catch the wires and yanks it to disarm the IED.
Robertson wanted the instructors to see the value in getting their students outside and getting their hands on the tools.
When the students had finished in the classroom, Robertson started his training. He turned to Nasir and Rasooli frequently to encourage them to take over. It wasn’t long before his plan worked, and the two instructors were demonstrating the technique.
All the “instructors need is a little direction,” Robertson said as he handed Nasir an EHRC lesson plan in the Dari language. They can use this to “formulate their own plan and make it work for them, he said.”
“I understand their struggles,” said Robertson. “All it really took was for me to go outside, demonstrate the technique and have them take over. We can’t tell them what to do necessarily. If the instructors see something effective, such as their students getting the hang of this technique, then they’ll start doing it.”
Two days later, Robertson wanted to watch the students’ actions in an IED scenario. Nasir and Rasooli had the students patrol the compound to identify mock IEDs in undisclosed locations. The students began the patrol in a formation.
Second Lieutenant Mohammad Nasim, a student in the course, moved ahead and scanned the area while the others set up a defensive perimeter. He noticed an unusual mound of rocks near a fuel truck, and then a few wires. He decided against the remote pull technique, considering the infrastructure and fuel truck close by. He marked the IED and reported it up his chain of command.
“That’s what I was looking for,” said Robertson, as he congratulated Nasir and Rasooli on their students’ accomplishment.
Nasim’s confidence in his new ability to detect and disarm IEDs grew after the scenario. But, his confidence in his instructors’ knowledge is also increasing. He knows the Marines are molding Nasir and Rasooli to become “great teachers against the IED.”
“The Marines are very knowledgeable about IEDs,” said Nasim, who along with four other ACNOP policemen will be part of an explosive hazard reduction team at the conclusion of the course. “We are happy we will have qualified ANCOP instructors in the future. They will help other policemen make Afghanistan a safer place.”
Nasir doesn’t worry about the obstacles he’ll face throughout the training process. He “loves the opportunity to better train his students.” He knows there will be trials and errors, but it will make him and Rasooli more proficient at their jobs.
“The Marines don’t exactly tell me how to do anything and I understand why,” said Nasir. “I mean, how do they expect me or the other instructors to know how to teach our policemen? They are helping us and God willing, through our education, we will teach others how to take away the enemy’s ability to fight.”