FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELARAM, Afghanistan --
Coalition forces gathered at Forward Operating Base Delaram, Afghanistan, for one of the largest graduations to date for the 5th Kandak, Afghan National Army.
Fifty-one ANA soldiers from the 5th Kandak graduated from various courses June 5, 2011, during a ceremony aboard the FOB.
Marines from the Embedded Partnering Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 8, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) hosted five different courses, to include a new weapons course.
“It’s important to teach the ANA about the weapons systems because their proficiency in shooting, as well as communication and movement, will enable American forces to confidently withdraw from Afghanistan,” said Sgt. David W. Saunders, the weapons course instructor with CLB-8’s EPT.
Seven soldiers graduated from the weapons course, which consisted of 40 hours of classroom instruction, 13 hours of guided instruction and 27 hours of hands-on training with various American and Russian weapons systems.
“Many of the ANA soldiers are familiar with the Russian weapons systems, and they prefer them because they have less moving parts,” explained Saunders, a Waldwick, N.J., native. “My goal in the weapons course is to teach the ANA more about the Russian weapons systems such as maintenance, cleaning and lubricating, and then teach them the basics of American weapons systems.”
During the course, the soldiers learned the characteristics of each weapon, different types of ammunition, shooting positions and what to do if the weapon malfunctions.
Eleven other soldiers graduated from a combat life saver course, which consisted of 40 hours of classroom instruction and 20 hours of practical application.
“We’re working with the Shock Trauma Platoon and EPT corpsmen to have ANA medics observe local national patients when they come in,” said 1st Lt. Andrew R. Booth, the officer in charge of the EPT. “They watch as the corpsmen treat the patient. It allows them to observe the procedures and to gain an understanding of what they do, which is much better than doing medical procedures on a dummy.”
In addition to those courses, 15 other soldiers graduated from a basic driving course, which teaches them how to properly operate vehicles as well as improve their overall driving skills, during both day and night.
“We noticed it’s uncommon for Afghans to drive after dark, but during some missions we have to travel then,” explained Booth. “We are conducting more night driving courses to better prepare our soldiers.”
Six other soldiers graduated from a wrecker operator course, and the remaining 12 soldiers graduated from a basic radio operator course.
“We have seen these courses build great confidence in our soldiers to act without advisors present,” said Booth. “The 5th Kandak, for the first time, supported a ground transport to [Sangin District, Helmand province] independently last week. They have never gone that far by themselves before and that mission is a direct reflection of our instructors’ hard work.”
Since CLB-8’s EPT started the series of seven courses – driving, radio operator, vehicle maintenance, combat life saver, wrecker operator, medic training, weapons and forklift operator – 174 ANA soldiers graduated and became certified in their trade.
“They like knowing they can drive a truck or operate a radio,” added 1st Sgt. Mohammad Hamid Balouch, the 5th Kandak first sergeant. “These things go a long way and will help us to continue to teach our fellow soldiers when the Marines are not here anymore.”
As the EPT Marines prepare for the next set of courses, they plan to tweak the syllabus to better benefit the ANA in the long run.
“The biggest change for future courses is transitioning to more ANA instructors teaching the material, and our EPT Marines can advise more and instruct less,” concluded Booth.