FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Afghanistan - Afghanistan National Army instructors and Marines from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, began follow-on infantry training for ANA soldiers at Geronimo’s ANA Academy, April 3.
Newly-trained ANA soldiers here began the 15-day course to enhance the fundamental skills they received during their eight weeks of basic training. This course includes a variety of classes, such as basic weapons marksmanship, first aid, improvised explosive device identification, and basic communication.
“When the soldiers first get here, they only have half the experience, but after the [ANA] instructors and Marines teach them these courses, they have twice the knowledge,” said ANA Staff Sgt. Mohammad Hasan, the platoon sergeant for 1st Company, 1st Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps.
The course is a critical component of training for the new ANA soldiers. After graduating, the soldiers go to their units, where they serve as infantrymen, conducting basic patrols and maintaining outposts.
“There is still a lot to learn before they go to their units out in the country,” said ANA Lt. Col. Abdul Ghani, the executive officer of operations for 1st Kandak. “But even though it’s rough at first, the Academy is a great success for the soldiers to learn so much.”
The ANA Academy first opened its doors in early January, and the Marines began by training ANA instructors to begin teaching their own soldiers.
First Lt. Malachi Bennett, who fills a dual role as the executive and operations officer for the 2/3 Embedded Training Team, said the Academy is a condensed version of the School of Infantry, which all enlisted Marine Corps infantrymen attend after basic training.
“The purpose [of the Academy] is to … put more focus on maneuver, means of communication and marksmanship,” explained 1st Lt. Donald Stone, the logistics advisor with the 2/3 ETT.
Stone, a native of Wilmington, N.C., added that the Academy’s motto is “Shoot, Move and Communicate.”
Proffering the example of marksmanship, Stone said the Academy mixes classroom instruction with practical application. First, the students take notes on how to adjust their weapon sights and assume basic firing positions. Later, they move to the range and apply these lessons with live ammunition, he explained.
Along with infantry training, the students learn a few miscellaneous skills, such as preventative maintenance for their Light and Medium Tactical Vehicles, Stone added.
Ghani said the Academy’s ANA instructors are taking a progressively larger role in teaching.
“At first it was tough, but now the instructors know the classes well enough that the Marines observe as the instructors instruct, and if there are any questions [the soldiers can’t answer], the instructors have the Marines step in and help,” said Ghani. “Once the Marines leave, we will continue the training as scheduled and teach our soldiers the classes they need to perform their job to the best of their ability.”
At the end of each infantry course, the honor graduate receives a certificate and a unique item, such as a tactical flashlight, a pair of protective, shatter-proof sunglasses, or military gloves to keep as proof of his achievement.
Hasan said he’s ready for the next wave of students.
“It’s really exciting to teach these classes,” he said. “When one finishes, I look forward to the beginning of the next so I can teach more of my fellow soldiers what they need to know for combat in the future.”