News: Afghan National Army: Competent, adequate and in the lead
Story by Spc. Alex Amen
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The village of Nakam is small. There is no electricity and the water comes from several small well pumps throughout the town. It is a farming community surrounded by dusty fields, resembling the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
As U.S. Army soldiers walk through the streets of this small village in the morning hours of Jan. 10, 2013, they are quickly surrounded by Afghan children. The children stare up in awe at the large green men and ask for pens and water.
On the outskirts of the town the Afghan National Army soldiers with 3rd Coy, 3rd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 203rd Corps, have already set up outer security, and their noncommissioned officers have moved to the center of the village to meet with the Americans.
This is the ANA’s mission. They planned it, they gathered the intelligence and they briefed it to their American counterparts. This is their country.
For the U.S. Army soldiers of 2nd Platoon, Company B, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), stationed at Combat Outpost Sabari, this is just another day. The ANA is in the lead in this part of the country and 2nd Platoon is just along for the ride.
It is a partnership that has developed over time and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Greene can attest to that.
“Right now our mission has moved into support for the ANA,” said Greene. “We assist ANA soldiers with the ongoing operations in Khowst Province. We’re handing it over to them, and they’re taking the lead on every operation that’s done in the Sabari district.”
Greene, the platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, believes his ANA counterparts are doing well with their expanded role.
“3rd Kandak is a good unit,” Greene added. “They care about their jobs and they do a good job. They’re pretty proficient at what they do.”
As a senior noncommissioned officer it’s hard for Greene not to notice differences and shortcomings between the two armies.
“One of the biggest differences is that our guys have had more training,” said Greene.
Greene explained how the ANA’s noncommissioned officer chain lacks the fluidity and oversight found in a typical American platoon.
“We know what to look for,” added Greene. “Our team leaders are way more trained than their team leaders and they need a little more help in their NCO structure.”
“Where we have a team leader which controls two guys and a squad leader that control two teams most of the time, they’ll usually only have one or two NCOs for 10 to 15 soldiers,” said Green. “So it seems like a bit of a command and control issue on their side.”
That said, Greene acknowledged the strides the ANA has made in the five months he’s been at COP Sabari.
“They’ve gotten really good at setting up perimeters and securing the site [of the operation],” said Greene. “Security is one of our biggest pet peeves, and they’re doing really good on that.”
In the five months that 2nd Platoon has been at COP Sabari, their role as infantrymen has shifted dramatically.
“Our mission when we first got here was to partner with the ANA, but still be a combat force to push back the enemy and try to expand the ANA security bubble,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Jack Abate, the platoon leader for 2nd platoon.
“The more we’ve patrolled, we’ve done a pretty good job of pushing the enemy back,” added Abate. “Now the ANA are in the front, and we assist them as much as possible and let them take the lead.”
The soldiers of 2nd Platoon understand how the roles have changed and stand ready to go on ANA led patrols.
“My guys are doing good, they understand what we’re trying to do here,” said Abate. “At first they wanted to get after it and go and attack the enemy, but the squad leaders have been keeping them informed and they can see and understand the overall picture.”
In the village of Nakam, the ANA met with elders and talked about local events. The Americans stood by as the ANA reached out to its community and gathered intelligence about the area. By noon they were leading the Americans back to COP Sabari.
“It’s all about them taking the reigns,” said Greene. “They plan and coordinate the whole operation. It’s their country and it’s their fight and we’re here to support them.”