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NEWS | May 9, 2011

Sailor shares experiences as Afghan adviser

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez Fonte , NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (May 4, 2011) — Afghanistan advisers represent a variety of nations and services. At the Afghan National Police Regional Logistic Center in Mazar-e-Sharif, one U.S. Navy sailor plays a critical role.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Ramon Nieves is an aviation ordnanceman out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. On his first deployment to Afghanistan, he is the only Sailor at the logistics center where he advises ANP weapons and ammunition officers assigned to a police logistics battalion.

“Mentoring Afghans means teaching correct procedures and taking away the Soviet mentality,” said Nieves. “They need to know what they have in the warehouse or depot. If they don’t have enough supplies such as ammo or weapons they can’t support the northern region. I mentor on how to do paperwork and inventory.”

Being an advisor is a long term commitment and progress doesn’t usually happen in one day. Nieves’ days are full of victories and setbacks.

“One of my big victories here was organizing the ammo bunker by lot numbers,” said Nieves. “Everything was organized and neat. [The ammo officer] was able to see the advantage of organization and knowing where things are. It was big victory. A little loss for me has been paperwork, making the ammo officer fill out the forms and take down the proper information. We are getting there though step by step.”

Since arriving to Afghanistan in August 2010, he has mentored the weapons and ammo officer assigned to the logistics battalion.

“Weapons and vehicles are the biggest issues and you need a good mentor who will give clear advice and not mislead you,” said ANP 1st Lt. Mohammad Hamayon, Regional Logistics Center Weapons Officer. “This job was to be done by six people and I am only one. I need to issue and track all the vehicles as well as weapons; it’s easier because my mentor is with me all the time.”

Nieves advises the battalion’s ammo officer on how to do inventory, store, issue and receive ammo. He also advises the weapons officer on how to inventory, issue and receive weapons. He also helps to function check and separate bad weapons from good weapons to send out for repair.

“I am a good advisor to him too,” said Hamayon, who learned English during a visit to the U.S. “My English is not very good but still we understand each and can solve our problems.”

Hamayon has been in his position for over a month. As the new weapons officer, he appreciates any help he can get while learning the ropes.

“We are very honest with each other,” said Hamayon about his relationship with his advisor. “I am new to this job. If I face any issues or problems, Nieves will come, give me some advice and I will listen to him. Sometimes Nieves has questions about Afghan systems and he will listen to me.”

Whenever weapons or ammo are issued Nieves is there with his Afghan partner. Storage container doors have a paper seal with his signature as well as his respective mentee’s signature. Additionally containers have two locks sealed the same way. One lock belongs to Nieves and the other respectively to his Afghan partner.

“I want to help the people of Afghanistan and this experience will be good for my career,” said Nieves about volunteering to deploy for Afghanistan. “I had no idea what I was going to specifically do. When I received orders, it just said I would be mentoring and training the ANP.”

Nieves received 10 weeks of training at Fort Polk, La., geared to prepare him to interact and advise Afghans prior to deploying. He is part of an embedded training team developing a police battalion manning the logistics center and supporting policing operations in provinces throughout northern Afghanistan. He is from Camuy, Puerto Rico, and has served in the U.S. Navy for seven years.