News: Spartans help Afghan forces forge their future
Story by Sgt. Javier Amador
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LIGHTNING, Afghanistan – In the early morning of Jan. 29, a synchronization meeting was convened by the representatives of the various branches of the Afghan National Security Forces, and as they moved through their agenda they shared critical information and decided the best course of action and in doing so, demonstrated the remarkable progress made possible by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Operational Coordination Center Regional Security Force Advise and Assist team.
Sharing some of the Army’s organizational tools such as synchronization meetings with their Afghan counterparts is just one of the OCC-R Security Force Advise and Assist Team’s many difficult tasks. Another is getting the different branches of the ANSF or pillars, as they are called, to able to communicate and work with each other, especially when they come from very different professional and cultural backgrounds.
“What makes this staff unique is that it consists of members from all of the Afghan security forces,” said Army Capt. Karl Zagorin, an intelligence officer with the Operational Coordination Center Regional Security Force Advise and Assist Team, “And it can be challenging, like it can be for us, to get the different branches to collaborate or to work together.”
The synchronization meeting is an important part of our Army’s daily organizational life. Units at every level of leadership rely on them daily to share information, discuss ongoing projects and to solve problems. It also allows them to bring together intellectual resources such as varied levels of experience or different military specialties. Common as they are to American military methodology, they are relatively new to our Afghan counterparts.
Another organizational tool the OCC-R SFAAT has shared with their Afghan counterparts is the after action review. The after action review takes an event such as a training exercise or operation and breaks it down to its basic steps which are then discussed at length to determine what went well and what they could have done better.
“Recently we advised the OCC-R staff on how to conduct an after action review after their first-ever Corps-level combat operation during the winter campaign,” said Army Lt. Col. Robert Owen, the commander of the OCC-R SFAAT, “This was their first time conducting an after action review so we taught them the principles of after action reviews and why they are important and they got it. They agreed that it was a valuable tool to help them improve their operations.”
The gathering of intelligence by the different branches of the ANSF and deciding how to use it is another area of focus for the development of the OCC-R. To help their Afghan counterparts meet this mission, they have brought their expertise in this area as well, sharing that knowledge with their Afghan counterparts.
“We are heavily involved in advising and assisting them on intelligence driven operations and what this means is that we work directly with the staff to ensure they collect good intelligence on the enemy, said Owen, “And we have coached them that just having that information is not enough, they must share that information with the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps staff so the planners can plan combat missions to either capture or kill those enemy and they have been very appreciative of this effort.”
The OCC-R’s geographic area of responsibility is large, encompassing a number of Provinces in the Spartan Brigade’s area of operations in Regional Command East.
The OCC-R’s ability to manage information and assets throughout all of its provinces is completely dependent on the ANSF’s ability to learn the more advanced leadership and management lessons which will take them beyond the rudimentary skills of basic soldiering.
Army Maj. Darren Glenn, the executive officer of the OCC-R SFAAT understands the time which they, along with the rest of the Spartan brigade both have to accomplish their mission is brief, so setting practical, attainable short term goals is an operational reality that he broke down into the simplest terms possible.
“I would say improving their battle tracking, their situational awareness, moving them towards situational understanding” said Glenn, “Knowing what’s going on is different from understanding what’s going on. Just receiving a report that an improvised explosive device went off here, does not necessarily prepare you for that next operation or the next effect that takes place from that event.”
The OCC-R SFAAT have seen and will continue to see challenges as they work alongside their Afghan counterparts but with the challenges there have been successes, leaving the team with a sense of optimism for their future.
“We are all proud of the accomplishments that have been made by the Operational Coordination Center Regional and we are all emotionally invested in the success of our Afghan partners,” said Owens, “In other words, we care. Our partners see this care and concern everyday and it has helped to develop some really close friendships.”