News: Advisory academy prepares mentors to improve ANSF capabilities
Story by Sgt. Richard Andrade
FORT POLK, La. – The classroom is full of soldiers wearing recently issued MultiCam Army Combat Uniforms and dark tan boots that are yet to be broken in. The officers and senior non-commissioned officers seated behind the rows of desks are assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, taking part in the Security Force Assistance Team advisory academy prior to their Afghan deployment.
Upon completion of the academy, leaders will train as SFATs at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, La., prior to their deployment. The mission of the SFATs will be to advise and mentor Afghan National Security Forces on everything from combat and police operations to logistics.
“The mission is to train a cadre to go out and train foreign forces, in this case Afghanistan, to facilitate the transition to the Afghan government and security forces so that we can leave Afghanistan,” said Maj. Jack Owens, of Moore, Okla., senior instructor assigned to the 162nd Infantry Brigade, based in Fort Polk, La.
The different advisory skill sets taught at the advisory academy range from interpreter management, knowledge of Afghan culture, how to conduct key leader engagements and how to act as a liaison officer between Afghan and coalition forces.
Owens said the mission of the academy is relevant and growing, just like JRTC. Some of the positive feedback he received from the last group of SFATs was on the cultural training.
“We have Afghan cultural advisers that have been interpreters and have lived in Afghanistan within the past five years,” Owens said. “Having real Afghans interacting with them was a real help.”
Having real Afghans working as role players at the various training sites is one of the unique aspects of JRTC. The situational training exercises replicate Afghan villages making the scenarios as real as possible. Subject matter experts visit the academy to provide valuable input is another aspect of the advisory academy.
“Things change constantly in Afghanistan,” said Col. Stephen Green, a senior mentor, Operations Coordination Center, Regional Command-East, currently deployed to Afghanistan. He is at JRTC temporarily to share his real-world experience to the leaders at the adviser academy.
“It’s important that we bring back people who are currently engaged in the theatre, have the most up-to-date information and can help not only the trainers here but also the people going through the training,” said Green, assigned to 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
One of the things Green emphasizes to the leaders in the adviser academy is to make sure they understand the Afghan culture as much as possible.
“You have to not only provide them with the information to be successful but why it is important, and how to make it an Afghan success or product,” Green said.
In order to make the transition with his replacements easier, Green communicates with his counterparts via video teleconferencing from Afghanistan to various locations in the U.S.
“We’ve had the people who have been doing their job for the last year, explaining what they’ve done, what needs to be done still and what they can do to prepare themselves to come over and be successful,” Green said.
Communication with inbound units will prepare them to have a smooth transfer of authority. He understands how important his visit to the adviser academy is.
“If I don’t come here and provide my very best information and guidance to the people who come after me, I may cause that process to fail to achieve its full potential,” Green said. “We’ve done a lot of good work, but none of it is going to mean anything if the guys that follow me can’t pick up the baton and continue to move forward.”
In order to make Afghans capable of conducting missions and to secure their own country, mentoring is one of the keys to that success.
“You can take Afghans on as many missions as you can handle but until they are actually leading, planning and having success in those missions themselves, we’re never going to get to transition. Moving towards transition takes mentorship, takes developing those leaders and staff so they can be independent of coalition forces,” Green said.
Owens reminds the leaders sitting in class the importance of the SFAT’s mission in Afghanistan.
“You are it,” he tells the group. “Your main mission is to coach, teach and mentor the Afghans so they can take charge of their country and we can come home.”
Once deployed, the objective of the highly trained SFATs will be to facilitate the transition of security from coalition forces to the Afghan government and military.