News: Engineers certify ANA soldiers as counter-IED master trainers
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – One of the more dangerous threats to coalition forces is improvised explosive devices. When U.S. forces depart from Afghanistan, the Afghan National Security Forces will have to respond to that threat because now they are becoming the target.
To help reduce or eliminate IED threats, U.S. combat engineers are training Afghan National Army soldiers on counter-improvised explosive device techniques and certifying those who stand out as counter-IED master trainers at Combat Outpost Xio Haq.
“We are setting up [the ANA] for success, when we leave, that is the focus,” said, Lt. Col. Hope Rampy, a native of Lawton, Okla., commander, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
One of the counter-IED instructors, Sgt. Edgar Williams, a combat engineer, said the counter-IED training involved ANA walking a lane set up with simulated IEDs. He and other combat engineers assigned to Company C, 4th BSTB, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div., advise their ANA counterparts on how they can improve their TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures).
“We showed them how to use metal detectors, how to walk in tactical formations, movement techniques they could use to counter ambushes and how to communicate with Explosive Ordinance Disposal to dispose of IEDs safely,” said Williams.
Williams said they also visit other bases besides COP Xio Haq and train ANA soldiers to the point where the ANA are confident enough to train their own soldiers.
Muhammad Arif was one ANA soldier that stood out from the rest. He is the first ANA soldier certified as a CIED master trainer at COP Xio Haq. Williams said Arif did a great job as a student, and having him as an instructor is great for the ANA.
“Watching Arif train his [combat engineers] really meant a lot,” Williams said. “We just stepped back and watched.”
“The counter-IED training we gave the ANA is something that will benefit them even after we leave their country,” said Sgt. First Class Benjamin Hernandez, a combat engineer, assigned to Company C, 4th BSTB, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.
“The more knowledge they gain from what we teach them, said Hernandez. “The better they are going to be, as an army and as a country.”
During the counter-IED course, soldiers advise the ANA engineers on the basic components of an IED, the proper use and maintenance of their equipment, different formations they can use as they conduct patrols to the proper clearance of a lane.
“We try to make the training as real-world for them as possible,” said Hernandez. “We try to emulate IED scenarios that we encountered before in Afghanistan.”
Hernandez said they make the class interactive. During the training, soldiers ask the ANA engineers for input, asking them about their experiences and the type of IEDs they have encountered in the past.
The native of Dededo, Guam, said he and his soldiers designed the counter-IED lane from the ground up. Hernandez said ANA soldiers did not initially want to participate in training scenarios; they just wanted to just go out and do their jobs. He said the lane made the ANA soldiers open up their eyes to training.
“The ANA soldiers get a better understanding that you can die 1000 times in training and be okay, but you only have one life out there, in the real world,” said Hernandez.
He said the goal was to have ANA engineers become master trainers so they can go out and start teaching others what we taught them.
Hernandez said he feels good about the training he has given his counterparts.
“The more we train them, the more they learn to become self-sufficient.” said Hernandez. “The sooner we can depart this country and they can live their life without us.”
There are other counter-IED lanes in various forward operating bases where his instructors visit, upon request, and certify ANA soldiers to become master trainers.
Hernandez said when they broke ground to create the counter-IED lane on COP Xio Haq, everything was hand-made or was created from trash.
“It is a real-world situation, the majority of IEDs we have encountered are made from unconcealed objects and items from the trash.” said Hernandez.
When they began creating the counter-IED lane, the only limitations were his Soldiers’ imaginations. Hernandez said the lane is now ten times better than when they began its design.
“We actually have a classroom environment now and our visual aids we use to teach are better,” said Hernandez.
Not only did Company C, teach but throughout the course they learned a few things from the ANA, as well. Hernandez said the ANA are very intelligent soldiers and is confident in the ANA’s competence.
“They know everything we know. They can sustain themselves, without much of our help,” Hernandez said. “They just had to get practice, and get their training structure down … they will be good to go.”
Williams, a native of Star, N.C., said he is on his third tour to Afghanistan. He said he enjoyed advising his ANA counterparts, working hand-in-hand with them; he got to know them on a personal level.
“It’s a good feeling to see how far the ANA Army has come since my first deployment. Now they are a lot more organized, disciplined and have a larger presence in their community,” said Williams.