News: ANA soldiers provide safety through delivery of artillery fires
By U.S. Army 1st Lt. Gerald Popko
2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Winston Churchill once said, “Renown awaits the commander who first restores artillery to its prime importance on the battlefield.” At the forefront of restoring the proficiency and skills of the artillery are the soldiers of the Afghan National Army’s Artillery Battery, 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps.
From Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, the soldiers of 4th Kandak help provide peace of mind for their brothers-in-arms across the Orgun Valley of Paktika province through the employment of 122mm D-30 towed howitzers. Every day, these artillerymen hone their skills through the execution of countless howitzer crew drills, survey techniques, and fire direction computational drills. Since January of this year, the D-30 Battery in Paktika province has set benchmarks and achieved milestones above and beyond the simple foundations of indirect fires training.
When asked about how he felt about the training of his artillerymen, ANA Sgt. 1st Class Zahir Khan, platoon sergeant for the Orgun platoon said, “We are improving every day and thanks to the Americans we have advanced our crew drills and are now going on operations off the base.”
The significance and benefit of the ability to conduct off-the-FOB artillery raids has not gone unnoticed: the ANA have already executed multi-day artillery raids during two major combat operations during the past three months.
The government of Afghanistan formally announced the transfer of security responsibilities to Afghan security forces June 18. However, the ANA at FOB Orgun-E had taken the reins on security operations in the Orgun District well before the announcement.
During recent missions, they battle-tracked operations from their fire direction center and were able to provide their comrades with illumination, smoke screens, and high explosive fires on a moment’s notice, all with little or no assistance from American advisers.
“There is no requirement or need to hold their hands,” said U.S. Army Capt. Mike Sim, commander of Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment. “Gone are the days of American advisers hovering closely over the shoulders of the ANA, stifling their ability to grow and learn and realize their potential on their own. The ANA artillery here in Paktika Province graduated beyond the crawl and walk phases when they demonstrated the ability to raid guns forward, occupy an austere, outside-the-wire firing point, and deliver surface fires in support of troops-in-combat. They are aggressive, capable, and accurate, and the D-30s are the key to the ANA’s ability to employ combined arms against the enemy.”
ANA 1st Lt. Matiullah, a platoon leader in the D-30 battery, told his American counterparts, “The three groups [the gun line, fire direction center, and forward observers] are coming together like never before to shoot artillery accurately,” commenting on the battery’s performance during Operation Pamier, a major combat operation involving both the 2nd and 3rd ANA Infantry Kandaks in Paktika province.
The artillerymen of the 4th Kandak fully recognize that the skills require continued training and that it will take dedication to continue improving the ANA’s fire support capability. But the ANA are able to tap into an unprecedented level of national pride, the ANA as a whole have become a proud and professional organization that is increasingly recognized as a pillar among Afghan institutions.
ANA 1st Lt. Wasiullah, a forward observer assigned to support the 3rd Kandak, explained it best, “Being in the ANA is fulfilling, because I feel like I am doing something for my country.”