By Pfc. Mary Gonzalez
Combined Joint Task Force - 101
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Partnership, mentorship and fellowship between military forces were the themes of the third-annual Sergeant Major of the Army Seminar, hosted by the Sergeant Major of the Afghan national army, Roshan Safi, and sponsored by Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan, at Kabul Military Training Compound, May 19-21.
During the seminar, key non-commissioned officers belonging to the ANA, CSTC-A, coalition forces and International Allied Security Forces gathered to discuss training, housing, pay and the partnership between the ANA and it's partner forces.
"This seminar is introducing different issues that some sergeants majors aren't aware of or familiar with, such as new training plans, new types of weapons systems, and the new Humvees they are about to receive," said Sgt. Maj. Richard N. Williams, Combined Joint Task Force-101 Operations sergeant major.
There are also new incentive programs in the ANA, to include retirement benefits for their officers, said Command Sgt Maj. Vincent Camacho, CJTF-101 and Regional Command-East command sergeant major. A similar program for NCOs is something he hopes will come about to aid in enlisted retention.
On the second day of the seminar, NCOs attended classes with their mentors, who displayed their knowledge of their new weaponry, such as M-16 rifles and M-240 machine guns.
"Their Soldiers are very well prepared on every class," said Command Sgt. Maj. Donald J. Cooper, of Regional Command-Kabul. "It might as well have been someone from one of our academies. They were on-point and very knowledgeable of everything, from the weight of the weapon to exactly how it works."
Mentors took great pride in the achievements that their ANA students made as individuals and as a complete fighting force.
"Being a mentor is a really interesting job," said German Command Sgt. Maj. Andreas Dault. "It was the best decision I made to be a mentor to one of the command sergeants majors. My counterpart has a lot of experiences and does what he can to help in the development of the unit."
Dault said that while progress has been made, the seminar helped to find solutions to issues by bringing everyone together.
"I've only been here two months and already I have seen a lot of increasing development, but our small work groups today helped tie everything together," Dault said. "We are improving the knowledge of safety and education, also improving the rate of literacy among the ANA. Their literacy program is ongoing and increasing."
Though the ANA is quite young, several American sergeants majors noted how far their NCOs have come. They credited not only their mentorship with CSTC-A and partnership with ISAF RC-E, but their own drive as Soldiers.
"As I look around this country and am able to view the Afghan army, there is not a lack of enthusiasm and there is not a lack of soldiers willing to get out there to protect this country and secure themselves," said Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur L. Coleman Jr., CSTC-A.
Many believe their capability is developing very fast.
"For their army to be all of five years old, they are moving in the right direction very quickly," Williams said. "They are doing exactly what needs to be done in order to take the fight to the enemy. They are very well disciplined, interested in learning and want to learn."