News: ANA soldiers graduate from drivers training course
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Twenty soldiers from the Afghan National Army, 201st Corps received certificates of completion after finishing a five-week driver’s training course at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, May 22.
The graduation ceremony included the driver’s training instructors from Raytheon, Intelligence Mobile Education and Training Team, ANA Lt. Col. Abdul Latif, commander of the 3rd Kandak (Battalion), 4th Brigade, 201st Corps and his advisor, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Doug Johnson, plans officer with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
“The ANA soldiers did well and I want to thank all of the mentors that taught this class,” said Latif, following the ceremony.
The commander said there are a lot of vehicles in his kandak. Latif stressed the importance of his soldiers being safe drivers and said the driver’s course is important for the development of his kandak and the ANA.
“Now that they are certified drivers, they have the responsibility to teach the rest of the soldiers in the kandak,” said Latif.
The five week course teaches ANA soldiers driver’s safety and the preventative maintenance of their vehicles. The students are primarily trained to drive light tactical vehicles and Humvees which are commonly used by the ANA.
“The coalition forces are going back to their homes. Our military should do all our own missions and be able to drive our own equipment,” said Latif.
ANA Sgt. Nazar Gul said the class was very good and said he appreciated the instructors who conducted themselves professionally.
“We learned a lot in this class from map reading to the hazards of unsafe driving,” said Gul. “What we learned in this course, [if God is willing], I will teach my soldiers as well.”
He saw the group of non-drivers develop into confident drivers who constantly stressed safety, especially while driving. During the class, the ANA were taught how to shift gears, the use of hand and arm signals and maintenance on their vehicles.
“After training the soldiers for five weeks, I was glad to see we had all 20 students graduate today. Ten of the graduates are certified to return to their kandak and be instructors,” said Rudy Gomez, with Raytheon, Intelligence Mobile Education and Training Team.
Gomez said the students in the class had never driven a vehicle before, but had the desire to learn.
“This class was dedicated to being in the class, when the weather was too hot, they devised ways to come in two hours earlier to avoid the heat and get the full training,” said Gomez, a native of Orange County, Calif. “I believe they will go back to their kandak and stress safety, which is what we stressed from day one.”
Leo Hernandez, a team leader with Raytheon, said the graduating class was amazing and hopes the next class will be the same.
“The [driver’s training course] is changing the ANA soldier’s mentality,” Hernandez said. “We teach them how to operate vehicles, safely.”
The El Paso, Texas, native said the first week of class begins with learning the basics of driving and focuses on safety. After the first week the instructors focus on preventative maintenance checks and services of vehicles. As an advisor, Hernandez said he enjoys watching the driving course graduation ceremonies.
Following the ceremony, the group took pictures and the students thanked and shook hands with their instructors. Some of the ANA soldiers even expressed their gratitude by giving Hernandez a hug.
“I am very happy,” Hernandez said. “Everytime we graduate a class it just shows me Afghanistan is moving forward a little more, and soon we will not have to be here anymore.