News: U.S., French train Afghan artillerymen
Story by Spc. Matthew Thompson
WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan — An Afghan forward observer, located at one of the observation towers lining the walls of the forward operating base, relays coordinates back to the fire direction control team and within seconds, an Afghan 122mm D-30 Howitzer roars, sending a round into the side of a mountain.
Five Afghan national army forward observers completed a 30-day training program with the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Airborne, May 5. This was the first class of the year, with more scheduled for the near future.
A forward observer is a Soldier responsible for calling for fire, serving as the eyes for indirect fire assets. During the training, ANA, French and U.S. forward observers partnered together to instruct, train and learn from each other.
The French Operational Mentor Liaison Team trained with the Afghan artillery on how to call for fire, perform combat patrols and conduct check points.
"We're just adding to their program," said U.S. Army Master Sgt. David C. Rogers, a master gunner with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment. "We're partnering in a different way than the French, being that we have a different howitzer to use."
With help from the 4-25, the ANA's cannoneers were able to learn more about field artillery, since the U.S. Army uses more advanced equipment like the M777 Howitzer.
"It was very useful to work with the other armies," said Afghan Lt. Sayed Hamed, a field artillery officer with 4th Battalion, ANA. "It was very good training, and we learned a lot of new things."
Calling for fire was something the Afghan observers weren't accustomed to doing, Rogers said
"We had the FOs calling back to their cannons for the first time," Rogers said. "They are used to shooting direct fire instead of indirect fire."
The partnership was initially established between the U.S. and Afghans four months ago when the Afghans came to visit FOB Airborne. It didn't take long for the Soldiers from the two countries to become friends.
"Within 15 minutes, they were split up into various groups, laughing, looking through the sights and talking about the ammunition with each other, without knowing what the other one was saying," Rogers said with a chuckle.
According to Rogers, the trainers were fortunate to have a class that was well educated. And while a group of five might seem insignificant, their ability to share their newfound knowledge is expected to have a significant impact for the ANA as a whole.
"We learned a lot," Hamed said. "The things we learned here we can use to teach to our units."
Helping the Afghan soldiers makes his mission all the more worthwhile, Rogers added.
"Knowing the Afghans will take this training and eventually be able to manage on their own as a country has been the most rewarding part of this training," he said.