LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Afghan field artillery soldiers with 1st Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps were spread across the D-30 training area at Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam Jan. 8, 2014. There were three U.S. advisors present at the training, but they weren't instructing any of the soldiers.
The day’s event provided 1st ANA Brigade leaders with the opportunity to teach subordinate soldiers basic procedures for firing the 122mm D-30 howitzer, a Soviet era artillery gun that entered service in the 1960s with a maximum range of 15.4 kilometers.
"Our purpose for coming here was to have a training event where our ANA instructors and master gunners are completely in the lead," said 1st. Lt. Adam Roberts, D-30 platoon leader, 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment. "[We want them] teaching fire direction, fires support, gun line operations, independent of us and with us in the background."
The training, although meant to be a refresher, covered most of the basics.
"We broke it up into four different things." said Roberts. "Forward observers, which we have an ANA instructor who was able to teach them map reading, call for fire; then we had a master gunner who is certified to teach manual and digital calculations for fire direction; and another master gunner who can teach the gunner's test, artillery skills proficiency test, and how to lay the gun on survey for gun line operations."
Roberts is deployed to Forward Operating Base Gamberi, co-located with his battalion's parent unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. The brigade’s Forward Observers directly advise the Afghan 201st ANA Corps’ Forward Observers on executing fire missions. Roberts’ D-30 platoon recently trained with the Corps' fire support officer, Col. Ahmad Jan, who came to FOB Mehtar Lam with Roberts to lead the training.
"We brought the instructors here from Gamberi and we talk to the guys on the gun line to find out if there were any problems." said Ahmad Jan. "I'm working with the fire direction officer and the FO to solve any problems, and coming here helps lift the morale of the students."
As the 2014 Afghan presidential elections draw closer, Ahman Jan is doing more than leading the refresher training and identifying equipment issues. He's also looking for areas where more training is needed within the brigade's.
"We are trying to make sure things are in place to have good election situation," said Ahmad Jan.
Col. Ahmad Jan has been working with American advisors for more than half a decade, and he is hoping for a ready and self-sustained Afghan Army. This is why much of the training going on throughout the 201st Corps is now being conducted by ANA trainers, and many of the training events are on a train-the-trainer basis. Upon completion, students trained are prepared to teach the training to others.
"Our goal is for [the Corps] instructors that we have at FOB Gamberi to go to a different location and train a group of [ANA soldiers], in field artillery, that they've never met before," said Roberts a native of Rockledge, Fla. "That's the future of artillery advising; to have the Afghans going to different FOBs, that we can't always go to, and training and certifying those guys."