News: Civilians learn trade skills vital to sustain control of Afghanistan
Story by Sgt. Jessi McCormick
TARIN KOT, Afghanistan – Afghan citizens have been training with coalition forces for over a decade to gain the ability to sustain their country independently. At Multi-National Base Tarin Kot, Afghanistan, Afghans are taking control of training trade professionals to assist the Afghan National Army.
Thirty-one students started an eight month trade school program Nov. 15. The students are Afghan civilians hired by the ANA. Rather than coalition forces leading the course, the Afghan contractors, hired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are taking the lead.
“The Infrastructure and Advisory Team [ITAT] was developed as part of a nationwide effort to oversee the transition of infrastructure operations and maintenance over to the Afghans,” said Capt. Billy Joe Riley, the commander for the ITAT team located at MNB-TK.
"In the transition process, we have to look at the training of the maintenance personnel and what tools they have,” he said. “Do they have the tools to conduct the maintenance? Do they have the personnel to fill the task skills? We find where the deficiencies are and try to put our focus there and help strengthen that up.”
The students are receiving training to become professionals such as electricians, plumbers, masons, construction workers, locksmiths, welders, HVAC technicians and power generator mechanics. Students train in only one job field for the entire program.
“We try to encourage them to learn more,” said Hussain Shojaeei, the training supervisor for MNB-TK. “They are not limited to one trade. For example, an electrician can learn HVAC after his course is finished. He can attend another course. It’s up to the trainees how much they learn.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Kellogg, a U.S. Navy Seabee with vast construction experience through prior deployments, credits the instructors for the success of the students.
“I’m constantly blown away by their enthusiasm and the knowledge they’re retaining,” said Kellogg. “They went from having zero knowledge of their trade to where they’re at now. It’s rewarding to see them learning and taking care of themselves.”
The students are taught in a classroom environment for approximately two hours a day, and then the students move to their respective training areas to demonstrate what they’ve learned in class. They have already completed tasks such as building walls, benches, and welding a barbeque grill.
Students are also eagerly learning basic English so that they can read printed instructions, as well as basic math calculations, such as the ones that welding student Abdul Samed will require to properly weld his projects.
“Everything we learn will be useful for us in the future,” said Samed. “Not only in the Army, but in our personal life as well. Our trades will be beneficial to our country.”
Capt. Riley is just as hopeful for Afghanistan’s future.
“We push to create an environment that’s welcoming and fun for them, and I’ve enjoyed working with them,” he said. “I’ve seen the progression over the past few years and I hope that it is sustained when we leave. The road will be rocky, but I wish them the best and I really hope they do succeed.”