News: Marine with 3/7 mentor, train the Afghan National Army
Story by Lance Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
PATROL BASE HANGAR, Sangin, Afghanistan – The patrol had just stepped off the road when gunfire opened up. The Marines and sailors with India Company immediately crouched and raised their weapons. Second Lt. Theodore Hardy, a platoon commander with the company, called for his Marines to take cover by nearby ruins.
While the Marines were seeking cover, return fire opened up, and as quickly as the firefight began it ended.
During this exchange, it was the Afghan National Army soldiers with 3rd Tolai, 2nd Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps who fired back, with the Marines in a supporting role.
“Individuals started firing, then the ANA fired back and pretty much handled it on their own,” said 2nd Lt. James Cartin, the ANA company-level advisor with India Co., 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
The ANA responded quickly and appropriately during the engagement.
“Fire superiority is a military term we use; if someone shoots at you, you shoot back with more rounds.” said Sgt. Nachen Dueck, a squad leader with the company. “They did that very well today.”
Cartin said he was most impressed with the ANA soldier’s discipline when they came under attack.
“They didn’t fire at the first machine gun burst because they didn’t have positive (identification),” said Cartin. “That shows they are learning.”
Since 3rd Bn., 7th Marines arrived last year, Cartin, a native of Statesville, N.C., and the rest of India Company, trained and mentored their ANA counterparts. As the ANA advisor, Cartin helped with scheduling patrols, ensuring the partnership blossomed between the Afghan soldiers and the Marines, and oversaw the training schedule for the ANA.
“As the deployment has gone by, the ANA (soldiers) have been more willing to learn and pick up the slack, because they know the battalion is leaving,” added Cartin.
The Afghan soldiers gained more responsibility as their confidence and abilities developed.
“They go on patrols themselves now, which is a big change from earlier in their deployment,” said Drueck, a native of Greensville, S.C.
On this particular patrol, the ANA reacted like Marines, properly handling contact with enemy insurgents.
“We patrolled an area that hadn’t seen a lot of Coalition Forces,” said Drueck. “The ANA took control, with the Marines in support, and did a really good job. There’s really no other way to put it, they did their job well, and I felt really comfortable out there working next to them.”
Partnered patrols, like this with India Co., and ANA independent patrols are preparing, not only the Afghan soldiers, but also the Afghan people for when the ANA take over for Coalition Forces.
“It’s evident on a partnered patrol the difference is in the response the civilians give the ANA,” said Cartin. “Their interaction with the locals is world’s ahead of our interaction.”
The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Security Forces continue to improve and prepare for when the safety of the civilians is solely their responsibility.
“I can’t even begin to describe how good they’ve gotten in the time that we’ve been here,” added Drueck.
Drueck said that ANA soldiers have told him time and time again that they want their country to be better and he’s seen them put the work in to make it better.