News: Afghan Soldiers, Test Future
Story by Lt. Col. Stewart Upton
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Lucky for them, it’s a beautiful day and hopefully a sign of what the test they are taking will mean to their future with the Afghanistan National Army.
Just one month after finishing basic training, Afghan soldiers sit on the cement of a parade field with a pen and a single piece of paper, taking a test that will determine their role in support of Afghanistan's future.
In a manner similar to how the U.S. military tests applicants to place their skillsets with a military occupational specialty; the Afghan Army administers a similar test to assess a Soldier's ability to function in certain jobs.
The U.S. test, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, also known as the ASVAB, must be completed with a No. 2 pencil to feed the bubble form into a computer that will then calculate and assess the recruit's aptitude.
For Afghan Soldiers in Helmand, their test is scored by the Regional Military Training Center Camp Commandant, Col. Shahwali Zaizai, and a handful of other RMTC leaders and officers.
The Afghan test is broken down into three sections: math, geography and problem solving. Their answer to the problem they must solve is considered the essay portion of their test.
The geography question asked what countries bordered Afghanistan and the problem solving question asked what problems winter brings and actions that can be taken to mitigate its impact.
"We score each soldier’s test and then place them as either medics, team leaders, or send them off to literacy school for further instruction on how to read and write," Zaizai said.
The RMTC executive officer, Col. Abdul Kabir, said they have to ensure in the process of assigning jobs, they are equally distributed among the tribes represented as part of that 8th Corps, 199th recruit battalion, made up of approximately 600 personnel.
"There can be as many as seven different tribes of Afghanistan represented," Kabir said.
Interviewed after his test, Alif Elham, 20, said the test was not hard because he was a high school graduate.
When asked what career field he wanted to go into, he paused for a moment, then looked at the XO nearby and asked him which one he should want.
"Medic," the XO replied, as that is the specialty they placed those that tested highest, making it the most prestigious job to be placed in.
Another recruit, Safir Ali, 20, said he had also finished high school and wanted to be a medic.
Most recruits to the Afghan Army are now high school graduates.
The training center's battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mahbobuallah, explained the increased number of high school graduates as a result of the Taliban's departure from Afghanistan in late 2001.
"It's a result of the revolution, it has been over 10 years," Mahbobuallah said.