Afghan National Army infantry soldiers, who recently graduated ANA basic training, conduct M224 60mm mortar training operations at the Regional Military Training Center aboard Camp Shurabak, Washir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sgt. Bryan Peterson)
WASHIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan (April 12, 2013) — Afghan National Army Sgt. Jan Agha, a commando with 215th Corps’ 7th Kandak, knows the tools of the infantryman trade. He’s been trained by and fought alongside coalition forces for the past three years.
He and other commando soldiers in his kandak, or battalion, used their battlefield experience to train the ANA’s newest soldiers on the M224 60mm mortar system at their Regional Military Training Center on Camp Shurabak, Washir District, Afghanistan, April 8. At RMTC, ANA soldiers undergo initial combat training before they receive training in a military specialty.
Agha and other commandos started the day with classes about the mortar system. Agha went into detail about how to emplace the base plate, how to assemble the system and how to determine distance and direction.
After a brief demonstration, one by one the soldiers took a turn at launching rounds.
Agha said he loves teaching ANA soldiers because it gives the ANA leaders “credibility with brand-new ANA soldiers.”
“This is great education for them,” said Agha. “They really listened well and asked lots of questions. It really showed they paid attention when we put the [mortar system] together. They were really quick and set it up right.”
Agha and the commando instructors used an intense approach during the training. They ran back and forth on the firing line yelling instructions to the soldiers who fired at targets set at distances of approximately 300, 500 and 800 meters. Their instruction produced results. Not every round hit its intended target, but Agha said the new soldiers grasped the knowledge and applied it well.
“They understood how to get the distance and direction of the target,” Agha said. “Most of the time, they hit their targets, or were very close. We only used more rounds when we absolutely had to so that each soldier left (the firing line) feeling confident.”
The 60mm mortar training was a first for soldiers undergoing basic training at RMTC, and ANA Maj. Gen. Sayeed Malook, the 215th Corps commanding general, and U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. W. Lee Miller, the Regional Command (Southwest) commander, attended to observe.
Malook gathered around his soldiers to watch them fire and then took a turn to fire several rounds as well.
Marines with the 215th Corps Security Force Assistance Advisor Team were on hand, but only to observe the training and ensure safety requirements were met. They watched for proper system emplacement and made sure soldiers were behind the firing line and handled ammunition carefully. Aside from that, they were completely hands off in accordance with the “train the trainer” approach of SFA personnel as the ANA takes the lead throughout Afghanistan.
The “train the trainer” concept is built around Coalition SFA teams, which teach critical capabilities to select ANA soldiers and Afghan policemen who can then train others as Coalition Forces draw down.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Smith, a SFAAT artillery advisor and a Santa Ana, Calif., native, watched the ANA instructors teach the soldiers and was impressed.
“The ANA instructors were doing a really great job,” said Smith. “The [new soldiers] liked that [senior] ANA soldiers were teaching them. The instructors gave the [new] soldiers a great deal of confidence and trust in their system, knowing once we leave, they’ll have their own [subject matter experts] to teach them new things.”
To Agha, putting pressure on the soldiers and making the training as realistic as possible was an effective way to help the soldiers learn.
“They have to know their job,” said Agha. “We can’t speak softly and expect the results we got today. We have to be hard on them, because that’s the way the Marines were with us and we learned a lot of things that will help us fight for our country. The future of Afghanistan is in our hands.”