News: Ready, CET, Go! A new training program begins at Afghan border
By: Cpl. Gary M. Prager
HAIRATAN, Afghanistan — Recently, soldiers of the Military Police “Mohawk” Platoon of 10th Mountain Division’s 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion in conjunction with the Border Management Task Force trained members of Afghan National Border Police for a Contraband Enforcement Team at the Friendship Bridge border crossing in northern Afghanistan.
The CET program is based on a similar U.S. Customs program that specialized in isolating and seizing contraband while developing a strong team. The training, proposed by Customs Border Patrol Officer Kevin Swanlaw, is the first of its kind in Afghanistan and the training module has set the standard for other border crossings across the nation.
Working with the ANBP leadership, Mohawk Soldiers Spc. Gary Mulford, Cpl. Gary Prager and Border Management Task Force personnel, David Krohn, and Fred Watkins developed a training plan focused on customs specific training. This training included contraband identification, seizure, Afghan customs law, along with vehicle, rail and container searching.
Though 12 ANBP started the program, only 10 graduated due to commitments to other missions and family emergencies.
The training began with classroom instruction, and hands-on practical exercises.
The classroom instruction was vital to the success of the training. The soldiers quickly grasped the importance, and put forth a full effort.
During this phase, students received training on equipment that would assist them while on duty to include learning about explosive and chemical testing kits, as well as the tools designed to allow for simpler and more thorough searches.
“I was impressed with how well they took in the training,” said Krohn. “They really understand what they do as law enforcement officers and what that represents to their community. They put in a lot of effort, because they understood how much this type of work will help not only the port, but their community and country as well.”
The instructors guided the border police, ensuring they could perform their duties while operating on the border. On a typical day, the students reported to class and were responsible for a specific search area.
They performed their duties to the best of their ability while the instructors observed and offered praise when the students accomplished their mission. Instructors also offered tips, advice, and critiques when the students had questions.
As the team developed, both students and instructors were able to gauge each other’s work ethic. This gave the instructors the opportunity to provide suggestions, techniques and methods, ultimately streamlining the process without sacrificing the thoroughness of the searches.
As the team found their rhythm, they began developing methods of their own by bouncing ideas off of each other and giving support in difficult situations.
“Shortly after we began, you could easily see how much more camaraderie they had developed, having trained together,” said Mulford. “You could really grasp what being a team meant to them, as well as how they would look out for one another.”
During the training, some unexpected leaders surfaced which ultimately led to a stronger and more self-sufficient team.
“These natural leaders have really stood out and done an excellent job taking up their role.” said Watkins. “They’re giving the soldiers somebody to look to in unfamiliar situations.”
Leaders took charge and ensured the police were present for training, as well as paying attention to everything around them. Each leader manages a small team of police and these teams comprise a group of border police what is known as the CET.
As the training progressed, the policemen were required to work alongside the Afghan customs agents, which proved challenging at first.
Until now, the customs at the border and the ANBP remained separate entities of security and support. Everything from the tasks they accomplished to the leadership remained separate and communication between these two offices was kept at a minimum.
The CET immediately began working with some of the customs searching personnel. It took some time and effort, but they were able to supplement each other.
“They really worked hard to build that partnership between the ANBP and customs,” Krohn said. “They made it work so that they could achieve a common goal.”
At the border crossing point, the team is under observation.
Leadership works to ensure the ANBP performs to the best of their ability, while other police learn from their example.
“They’ve really tried to get by with the equipment and supplies they actually have, which is less than ideal,” Watkins said. “Even so, they take what they can get and do an excellent job.
“Their instructions have been picked up by soldiers who haven’t received any of the training, and it’s led to improvements all around the border.”
ANBP, who have worked alongside the team, began using the same techniques and methods. The leadership is pleased with the way the team has managed to set the example. Even the more experienced officers have stopped by to add some advice or words of encouragement.
Maj. Mohammed Zahir commented how the police remain courteous and professional, even during the most frustrating situations. The police immediately thanked the senior officer for his advice, and adjusted their behavior accordingly.
This group has faced many challenges. These challenges include dealing with everything from angry travelers and customs law loopholes, to team member absences or aversion to change. Despite this, the CET does its best and perseveres.
“Even when facing some bad situations, they back each other up, stay motivated, and keep moving forward,” said Mulford. “That is exactly the attitude that it will take for success.”