LOGAR PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As the Afghan National Army grows and develops into a professional force, it is experiencing challenges that other professional forces have faced in the past.
One of those challenges is soldiers who go absent without leave and are eventually dropped from roles. Though significant, this challenge is not unique to the Afghan army.
In U.S. history, the Continental Army struggled with AWOLs. During the American Civil War, the Union Army had a high number of deserters. With the imminent withdrawal of Coalition Forces, Afghan personnel officers are working to overcome these challenges with the help of those who already have.
U.S. Army Capt. Jeffrey Kocian, assigned to Tactical Action Center-1, G-1, or administration office, advises ANA Col. Qurban Nazar, 201st Corps, G1, on administrative matters at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
Kocian works hand-in-hand with his counterpart as Nazar is responsible for ANA personnel services including administrative, discipline and manning issues.
He received pre-deployment training at the Security Force Advise and Assist Team Academy at the Joint Readiness Training Center, in Fort Polk, La. The lessons covered Afghan culture and language training, general adviser training and an overview of how Afghan National Security Forces function.
“A lot of good information was provided to set us up for success, especially for me, who has never been an adviser before,” said Kocian, a native of Houston, Texas, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
This is Kocian's first deployment to Afghanistan, having previously deployed to Iraq. He said he didn't know what to expect prior to this deployment. Kocian said he just passed the halfway mark in his deployment and said the ANA are a lot better off than what he anticipated.
Kocian attends the 201st Corps daily update brief. He said the morning meeting provides an overview of each ANA brigade's operations, discussing any significant activities with each staff section giving a quick run-down of logistics and intelligence reports.
Kocian advises Nazar as he provides guidance to ANA brigades and battalions. Nazar indirectly assists with the in-processing of new soldiers and accountability of ANA troops.
“I prepare and manage Corps personnel including assignments, promotions, legal actions and even retirements,” said Nazar.
If an ANA soldier has issues with his pay, promotion or leave paperwork, he must notify their respective chain of command. Nazar said, the paperwork flows from individual units, up to the soldiers’ chain of command and arrives at the 201st Corps, for final review and receive the commanding general’s signature of approval.
With over 24 years of experience in the ANA, Nazar said he stays busy as the 201st Corps, G1, but enjoys every minute of his job. Nazar makes time in his busy schedule to speak to new ANA soldiers and lets them know how important and historic being part of the Afghan Army is.
In his opinion Nazar said the ANA’s priority is to make good quality, noncommissioned officers, with good leadership skills. He said administration plays a vital role in his soldiers’ welfare and morale. But his attention to detail does not end there.
“Due to the insider threat, we make sure to screen bad people and make sure they do not join or stay in the Army,” said Nazar.
He said he makes sure ANA company commanders are inspected on a regular basis. Nazar said he has worked with many coalition partners since the fall of the Taliban.
While reviewing ANA AWOL statistics, Kocian said he made a discovery that can dramatically alter the number of reported AWOL cases.
The ANA G1 puts together a monthly personnel status report that includes a list of soldiers who have been dropped from roles after having been reported as AWOL. The report also includes soldiers being transferred out of the 201st corps, finished their time in the army (ETS), casualties, natural deaths, retirements and promotions.
“As I was looking at the last 12 months of data, one of the numbers jumped out at me, which was their ETS numbers,” said Kocian. “Over the last year there were 469 soldiers, total, ETS from the 201st Corps.”
According to his data, Kocian said the current ETS average is higher than it should be.
“What I think is happening is that the ANA soldiers’ battalion S1 (personnel staff office), aren’t able to quickly identify and process soldiers who are supposed to ETS. There are soldiers who their finance department finds out they are not supposed to be getting paid anymore and so their pay stops, and then they go AWOL. The soldiers are DFR instead of being processed out of the army the normal way,” said Kocian.
He believes that many of the AWOL numbers are really soldiers who completed their term of service in the Afghan army and should be counted accordingly.
“I think that is skewing the AWOL rate numbers,” said Kocian. “Basically if they were able to better identify soldiers whose contracts are about to expire, there would be a drop in the AWOL and subsequently the DFR rate.”
Kocian will use this information to help teach the ANA personnel officers how to more accurately track the status of soldiers and their time in service. It is expected that this will result in a reduced AWOL rate for the 201st Corps.
In his opinion, keeping accountability for soldiers can be time consuming but as the ANA numbers grow in size, the Corps G1 will have to communicate more with the ANA kandaks.
Kocian said the attrition rate has been on a downward trend and the AWOL rate is the lowest it has ever been.
As the Corps makes changes to their AWOL policy and educates their soldiers, it will help contribute to the decline in the AWOL numbers.
“I have learned a lot from my U.S. adviser, and enjoy my partnership with Coalition Forces,” said Nazar.
“Understanding how [the ANA] conduct business, trying to make recommendations to help improve their processes, figuring out how the best way to tackle a problem,” said Kocian. “It is a challenge, but I am definitely enjoying it.”
“Advising can be frustrating at times, but it can also be very rewarding,” Kocian said.
ANA grows and becomes better organized it will have to rely on officers like Nazar to maintain accountability of soldiers in their unit. ANA G-1 personnel will correct information for an individual an entire unit, so soldiers’ needs are taken care of and they can focus on their mission at hand.
||LOGAR PROVINCE, AF
||HOUSTON, TX, US
This work, G1 office keeps soldiers focused on their mission at hand, by SSG Richard Andrade, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.