News: Afghan troops train to be specialized fighting force
Story by Sgt. Gene Arnold
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are one of the deadliest threats coalition forces, Afghan National Security Forces and civilians face throughout Afghanistan. The techniques of preparing IEDs may vary, but the purposes of them are all the same: to harm, kill or destroy all that comes into contact with them. Since its conception, the U.S. military has evolved into a more specialized and adaptable fighting force. One of those specialties, explosive ordnance disposal, isn’t for the faint of heart. Each EOD team is responsible for not only the service members to their right and left, but any mistakes they make could cost them their lives.
Since July, the 725th EOD from Fort Drum, N.Y., located at Forward Operating Base Sharana, has been training their specialized ANSF partners the basics and safe disposal procedures of ordnance. This partnership has not only strengthened the ANSF capabilities, but is helping to provide a more secure Afghanistan.
In a region where 34 percent of the population is traditionally educated, the lack of schooling hasn’t stalled their curiosity to learn new things. In more than 20 scheduled class iterations and partnered training events, the 725th has noticed a significant change in their partners’ confidence in the fight. Each scheduled class conducted at the Afghan National Army compound on Forward Operating Base Sharana is met with enthusiasm and professionalism.
Although there are multiple language barriers, it doesn’t outweigh the mutual respect and the melting pot of knowledge that is shared.
“I’ve been in the army about seven years, working as an EOD about three years,” said Baitullah, an Afghan National Army lieutenant who has been training with U.S. EOD soldiers for the past six months.
“It’s a good relationship between the coalition and Afghan forces; they are giving us a lot of training and experience. We are so happy with the training the coalition forces are giving us,” he added, with the help of an interpreter.
In the past year, the Afghan fighting force has become stronger and more of a threat to their enemies. The specialized training conducted has provided a noticeable difference in the surrounding areas. The news reflections from Kabul about the amount of IEDs being removed from the population by Afghan hands have spiked over the last few months.
“We’ve seen an increase with the Afghan EOD personnel capabilities. Typically, on Tuesday and Thursdays, we train the EOD personnel,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Wentzell, the partnership training non-commissioned officer in charge.
“Each time we go out there, we look at the mistakes that they’ve made, but they never make the same mistake twice,” he added.
Even though most would think that the lack of equipment would stall the progress being made in this country, the Afghan EOD has shown their American partners simple but effective ways to remove IEDs when technology is not available.
“This is a sharing experience, based off what they do helps us update our techniques, tactics and procedures,” said Wentzell. “They’ve shown us a couple of different rope tricks to detonate an IED and we’ve never seen these before and we’ve never used them.”
When you think of ropes and IEDs you may imagine some sort of disconnected functionality picture. However, this technique has worked for the Afghans, and the techniques shown by the Americans have helped refine their method.
“They are coming together, getting on the same page and getting to a point where they have a very good understanding of how to operate safely,” said Staff Sgt Keith Carpenter, the assistant partnership training non-commissioned officer.
Even though the Afghan EOD isn’t equipped with the same gadgets that detect, exploit and safely detonate the commonly used devices in their battle space, it hasn’t stopped them from developing solutions to the riddles these IEDs pose.
“Their equipment load out, it’s not what we have. What they do have, they’re doing an outstanding job with. The EOD we train, to me, they are ready to stand on their own two feet now,” said Wentzell. “They’re very good at what they do.”