News: Year of the Command Team in Afghanistan
Story by Staff Sgt. Bruce Cobbeldick
KABUL, Afghanistan - At the senior enlisted conference, held here March 12, a senior coalition forces noncommissioned officer suggested that the Calendar Year 2013, which is Solar Year 1392, be referred to as “The Year Of The Command Team” in Afghanistan.
Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, Commanding General of the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan and Commander of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan, reminded the audience that since Afghanistan gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1919 and until 2001, the primary influence on the country was the Old Soviet union and Russia.
According to Bolger, who has a PhD. in history, the Afghan military – like most armies in this region - did not emphasize the importance of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps. The Afghan military had officers and a lot of privates who were drafted into the army and that was about it. The enlisted soldiers typically served a year or two, and then got out.
Bolger underscored how Afghanistan is the only nation in this part of the world that has a functioning NCO Corps. Bolger said, “it’s not the weapons systems or equipment that matters. What counts is having an effective NCO Corps. The forum complimented the ANSF for making its senior NCOs an integral part of their armed forces.”
And this makes Afghanistan unique in this region, according to Bolger.
“The idea is for us to facilitate getting top coalition forces and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to meet up here with their counterparts and continue the good work that has gotten the ANSF on the right path, as we prepare for the transition in 2014,” said ISAF Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Major Thomas R. Capel, who hosted the event. “These are the movers and the shakers here in this room here today.”
“We do have some challenges ahead of us still,” Bolger said. “Up until the last few years, it has been very easy for Afghan leaders to get what they need from the coalition forces, but now, the coalition forces are going to drop in numbers. So, moving forward, the business of making sure that the Afghan warriors have fed, paid, housed, given water, ammunition and medical support this is what we call sergeants’ business to grip logistics. The sergeants know what the troops need and the coalition forces NCOs in this room here can help show you the methods and techniques how to solve those problems.”
“So, for the next 22 months, as we transition here, it is the Afghan noncommissioned officers opportunity now to step forth and take the challenge, so what’s at stake here is the future and freedom of Afghanistan’s people and as goes Afghanistan, as goes this region and goes this region, goes the way of the world,” Bolger said.
According to Bolger, letting the sergeants take charge and run their part of the operation has always been something that the Afghan Minister of Defense has realized.
“But I would say to the senior Afghan NCOs present that the best way to promote the value of senior enlisted leadership is to demonstrate value to your commanders and share your expertise,” he said.
One sergeant major submitted the suggestion that perhaps in the coming solar year, it ought to be known as the “year of the command team.”
Bolger told the senior enlisted leaders that as they met here, three out of every four people in the room defending Afghanistan are wearing the Afghan uniform. That was not the case two years ago. In the calendar year of 2013 and in the solar year of 1392, the Afghans are going to take the lead in terms of securing this country.
“We’ve seen the ability of Afghans to train themselves,” he said. “In fact, 85 percent of the Afghan training going on in the Afghan National Security Forces patrolling an area is being handled by the Afghans themselves.”
“Noncommissioned officers have the opportunity now to step forth and take the challenge, so what’s at stake here is the future and freedom of Afghanistan’s people and as goes Afghanistan, as goes this region and goes this region, goes the way of the world,” Bolger said.
The Sergeant Major of the Afghan Army, Command Sgt. Maj. Safi Roshan, said that coalition forces helped his army to understand how important the NCO Corps truly is to the future of Afghan’s military and this has helped his warriors go from zero to hero.
“We have come a long way,” Roshan said, “but as we remember many of my friends who have died and are not here in this room here today, we must remember the big heroes who have sacrificed and all our coalition brothers who have left their nice, beautiful countries to come here and help us. We must move forward and continue the work.”