News: Advisors help ANA staff judge advocate become fully independent
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- As the Afghan National Army grows more self-reliant, the ANA 201st staff judge advocate is playing a significant role in following the rule of law and its fair application in matters involving its military personnel.
U.S. Navy Capt. Pamela Ball, of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, also known as JAG Corps, serves as the legal adviser for ANA Col. Mohammad Ehsan Popalzai, the ANA 201st Corps staff judge advocate in support of their developing court system at Forward Operating Base Gamberi in Laghman province.
The “Rule of law" exists when a government respects the supremacy of democratically made laws, adheres to procedural justice, and acknowledges equality before the law in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
As the Judge Advocate advisor to the ANA 201st Corps SJA, Ball meets with Popalzai and the ANA legal staff frequently, advising on a wide range of issues dealing with Afghan administrative law, military personnel law the rule of law, etc. She advises the ANA 201st legal community as they develop their system of laws.
“I am happy to have the assistance of my adviser,” said Popalzai. “They have provided a lot of training to our legal staff so they can conduct their duties professionally.”
Popalzai said the advisers have helped the legal office by working “shoulder to shoulder.” He said the mentors have visited the SJAs assigned to the four brigades that fall under the 201st Corps to help with criminal cases.
“The advisers help with criminal cases like treason, corruption, theft, extortion, helping to speed up the process of many cases. They provided seminars and training on anti-corruption and evidence based training to the ANA personnel,” said Popalzai.
“The SJA and I have a very good working relationship,” said Ball. “I give him and his staff my suggestions and recommendations.”
The native of Jacksonville, Fla., also talks with the chief prosecutor and the defense counsel helping them to work better in the courtroom. Ball said she has seen vast improvements with the ANA legal office since she began her advisory role more than 6 months ago.
“I think my one-on-one mentoring works better than when I provide classroom training,” Ball said.
Ball does not work alone; together with Francisco Sun, or Frank, of DynCorp International, they advise and train their ANA counterparts. Ball said before Frank arrived to FOB Gamberi to serve as the ANA Criminal Investigation Department advisor, they needed some training on how to conduct CID investigations, how to lift fingerprints and how to set up a crime scene.
“He has the knowledge and expertise,” said Ball. “Since Frank has arrived he has been able to give the ANA practical hands-on experience they were once lacking.”
Sun, of New York City, has more than15 years of investigative experience serving as a police officer. He has worked in internal affairs, homicide and has mentoring experience serving as an advisor to the provincial police in Iraq.
“The ANA CID are well trained, they just need a little more experience so they can become more confident in their investigative procedures,” said Sun.
The hands-on classes Sun teaches the ANA soldiers are from real-world events he encountered serving as a police officer. He believes the realistic training will the key to ANA CID success. Sun said they are lacking some resources, but as the ANA CID grows they can ask for more support from the 201st Corps.
“The [ANA CID] pick up what I teach them very quickly. I think they are on their way to become more self-sufficient,” said Sun.
With sufficient training from the advisers the ANA CID will perform better investigations, which will lead to better prosecutions, all Afghan led. The goal of the advisers is to bring the ANA legal team to fully independent operations as the number of Coalition Forces begins to draw down in Afghanistan.
Ball said they used to meet their counterparts almost every day of the week, now they visit the ANA legal staff a few times a week. The less they interact with their ANA counterparts the more the ANA legal office can take the lead and carry out their day-to-day work independently. She said the ANA soldiers enjoy having them around, while over a cup of tea they ask questions and listen to what the advisors have to say.
“They like to pick our brains and ask how we do things in the U.S.,” said Ball. “When we advise and recommend, we are focusing on what can be sustainable after we leave.”
Popalzai said he has served as the ANA 201st Corps SJA at FOB Gamberi for more than two years.
“I really like my job and I am here only to serve my people, to serve my country,” said Popalzai.
The advisers and their Afghan counterparts develop strong relationships during the service member’s deployment. Some ANA soldiers grow so close with their advisers they sometimes feel bad when the advisers have to redeploy.
“I really appreciate our advisers and hoped they didn’t have to go. I understand they are away from their families to help Afghanistan. When they return home I wish them much success in their life,” Popalzai said.