News: SFAAT 13 trains ANA on M2 .50 caliber machine gun
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Elements from Security Force Advisory and Assistance Team 13 trained Afghan National Army soldiers on the M2 .50-caliber machine gun weapons system at Forward Operating Base Tagab, May 18.
The SFAAT 13 advisers met with their Afghan counterparts at the motor pool on FOB Tagab to perform the hands-on training with ANA soldiers assigned to the 2nd Kandak, or battalion, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps. The outdoor training was to familiarize the ANA noncommissioned officers with the headspace and timing of the .50-caliber machine gun mounted on ANA vehicles.
U.S. Army 1st Lt. Joshua Lakey serves as adviser to ANA Maj. Ullah Aziz, the executive officer and acting kandak commander. The native of Atlanta, Ga., also serves as operations, or S3, adviser for SFAAT 13.
Lakey said they meet with their ANA counterparts individually to discuss any projects they are working on. The advisers visit their counterparts regularly to provide ANA leadership with solutions for any issues they might have.
During a recent joint operation, Lakey said, there was an incident, when under fire, an ANA soldier’s .50-caliber machine gun jammed, rendering the weapon inoperable. Unfortunately, the soldier did not know how to make the weapon fully operational again.
“They were familiar with some [.50-caliber machine gun] training, but they weren’t trained well enough to where they could execute it under fire,” said Lakey. “So that is what brought up today’s training event.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Brandon Terrette, a signal support systems specialist, provided the ANA noncommissioned officers with the knowledge so they can return to their platoons and train their soldiers on the weapon system.
Terrette is the SFAAT 13, communications noncommissioned officer-in-charge and serves as the ANA communications, or S6, adviser. He is assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Regiment, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
The morning began with the U.S. Soldiers walking to the ANA side of the FOB and meeting with their ANA counterparts. The .50-caliber machine gun was removed from the turret of an ANA Humvee and used for the class.
Under the mid-morning sun, the SFAAT advisers showed the soldiers how to safely take the weapon apart and reassemble it. The group of noncommissioned officers encircled Terrette and listened close to what the adviser had to say.
Through the use of an interpreter, the advisers answered questions the ANA soldiers had about the weapon system. With the machine gun on the floor, Terrette showed them how to safely disassemble it.
ANA Sgt. Nemullah, like many Afghans who go by one name, has been in the army for more than three years. He said he is a platoon sergeant and enjoys being a noncommissioned officer.
“I have to educate and train my soldiers how to use this weapon, that is my job,” said Nemullah.
After a familiarization with the components of the M2, the ANA soldiers removed the barrel, picked it up from the motor pool floor and repositioned on its mount atop the Humvee.
Next, the advisers instructed and supervised the ANA soldiers on the headspace and timing of the .50-caliber machine gun. The adjustment procedures must be performed each time the barrel is installed. Firing a weapon that has improperly set headspace and timing could damage the machine gun, or cause injury to the gunner.
With the use of a headspace and timing gauge and a translated version of an M2 machine gun technical manual, the ANA soldiers took turns removing and reinstalling the barrel and properly checked the headspace and timing of their weapon. They followed the steps by-the-book and each of the soldiers practiced performing a functions check on the gun.
“Today’s training was very good, we’ve had this training a long time ago and right now they refreshed our mind. We are very happy with the training from our advisers,” said Nemullah.
The ANA platoon sergeant said it is important for his soldiers to know how to use every weapon in his kandak.
“I tell my soldiers this is our country, and we have to defend it from whoever is trying to be against our country,” said Nemullah.
Terrette is a native of Phoenix and said the SFAAT team does not visit the ANA side of the camp as often as they have in the past when they first arrived at FOB Tagab.
“We advise every other day so they can grow on their own, and we can check on their progress,” said Terrette. “We train the NCOs so they can be self-reliant, and spend time training their soldiers.”
“The XO does a wonderful job listening to our recommendations and understands what we are trying to accomplish,” said Terrette, speaking of the new leadership in the kandak.
Aziz said Coalition Forces do not provide the support they used to and that is not a bad thing. He said they helped the ANA in many ways from providing literacy classes to weapons training.
“Right now the SFAAT teams are allowing us to stand up on our own two feet,” said Aziz.
As the acting commander, Aziz said he holds officers and senior noncommissioned officers accountable for their soldiers and said he makes sure they do their jobs.
“In the past, the U.S. soldiers did a lot for the ANA, and that allowed some soldiers to become lazy,” said Aziz. “Now the ANA will have to remember all of their previous training so they can do their jobs by themselves.”
Terrette said the ANA soldiers maintain constant communication with the check points and combat outposts near the base.
“They have gone from checking on things every once in a while to checking on things every day,” said Terrette.
Lakey, a native of Atlanta, Ga., said he has witnessed the vast improvements the ANA have made during his time as an advisor. He said his mission as an advisor has been full of challenges.
“These guys know how to fight, but they don’t always have the tools available,” said Lakey. “I hope they can get their supply system fixed sooner than later so that it will allow resources get to where they are needed.”
As his redeployment back home draws closer, he said he hopes the ANA will continue to grow and make the mission their own, not only for themselves but also for their country.