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News | Nov. 18, 2011

Nothing lost in translation: Afghan soldier takes reins as explosives reduction course instructor

By Cpl. Timothy Solano , Regional Command Southwest

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (November 18, 2011) — It’s another training day at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, where Afghan soldiers are learning specific occupational specialties and general military skills just as they do every day. However, one course offers a unique learning advantage because the instructor is an Afghan National Army soldier and speaks his students’ language, Pashto.

Sgt. Hamidullah, with 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, has been an instructor for the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course at JSAS for the last three months. He teaches everything, from detecting and identifying improvised explosive devices to the science behind assembling plastic explosives.

“It’s my job to teach the students how to safely sweep for, and identify and destroy improvised explosive devices in place,” said Hamidullah. “I also teach them about connecting C-4 lines and fuses.”

With a curriculum as intricate and potentially dangerous as the EHRC’s, every phase of the learning process is critical. The course is supervised by U.S. and coalition forces explosives experts, but now that the course does not require the aid of an interpreter, nothing risks getting lost in translation.

“Every time we go to the field to teach we don’t even have to guide him,” said Lance Cpl. Corey Donovan. “By now, he just knows exactly what to do and what to tell the students,” said the Malden, Mass. native and fellow EHRC instructor.

Ultimately, allowing instructors like Hamidullah to teach a class not only provides a smoother workflow without the use of interpreters; but also gives Afghan soldiers a sense of accomplishment and propriety within their military system.

“I am glad to have this job. It is very important to me that I can protect the Afghan people and (ANA) from danger,” Hamidullah said, adding that he aims to ensure he and his students are always ‘speaking the same language’ when it comes to explosive weapons handling and safety.

After completing the course, the soldiers will use their skills for their respective units in and around Helmand province, as a majority of roadside bombs are found by human eyes.