News: Afghan master gunner sustains artillery standards
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Bruckner
PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The field artillery in the Afghan National Army recently made a great stride in their enduring ability to train and certify soldiers to fire artillery, a much needed benchmark for independent operations. ANA Sgt. 1st Class Zahir Khan, from Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, ANA Artillery Battery, 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps, is the first ANA field artillery master gunner for D-30 howitzers in Paktika province.
Field artillery master gunners are the subject matter experts in all aspects of the D-30 howitzer and advise the kandak commander on weapon system capabilities and limitations. They manage and execute all artillery certifications and qualification programs and develop new training techniques to improve crew training within the unit.
The kandak commander handpicked Khan from within his unit to be the master gunner due to his proficiency with the D-30 howitzers. Khan tested on all the leaders’, artillery skills proficiency and gunners tasks for the system while at FOB Orgun-E and passed them all well above the standard.
When Khan arrived at FOB Orgun-E he had brought with him his own training curriculum. As his final master gunner test, he briefed the artillery platoon sergeants on what his training would consist of and immediately initiated the regimen. He observed leaders and sections within the kandak at both FOB Orgun-E and Afghan National Army Base Khair Kot Garrison, the two locations where sections of the kandak are stationed. He made corrections, instructed leaders on their mistakes and how to fix them. He did not pass anyone until he was satisfied with the outcome of their performance.
Over the past few years U.S. Security Force Advisory Teams have worked alongside the ANA artillerymen and advised on tactics, techniques and procedures for employing the D-30 howitzer. ANA Artillerymen have conducted multiple missions on and off their FOBs without incident with SFATs alongside ensuring only safety. Khan has maintained these standards through the use of a certification and qualification program he adopted from the U.S. Army’s field artillery master gunner certification program.
“I am proud to be selected as a master gunner for my army and will continue to maintain the standards my mentors have taught me,” said Khan. “I will travel and do what is necessary to certify all my sections.”
His ultimate goal is to certify all newly arriving ANA soldiers and any new leaders in either the platoon sergeant or howitzer section chief positions, and to conduct semi-annual re-certification for the D-30 platoons.
“This is a huge step forward for the battery’s ability to self-sustain,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Kurt Carlson, an adviser with 2/10 Security Forces Assistance Brigade’s SFAT Red 1. “Having the internal capacity to certify and verify platoon capability means the battery will be able to provide accurate and timely fires long after American advisers have gone.”
“Due to the unique composition of Combat Support Kandaks in the ANA, the D-30 batteries need the ability to certify internally. The Afghan master gunner identified was clearly the correct choice and has done an admirable job,” said U.S. Army Maj. Timothy Lawson, team leader of SFAT Red 1.
Overall, with the experience and knowledge that Khan has to offer his soldiers and leaders will be able to provide safe and timely fire missions for the ANA in Paktika for the foreseeable future.