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    Joint Artillery Training in Nuristan



    Story by Spc. Gregory Argentieri 

    173rd Airborne Brigade

    By Spc. Gregory J. Argentieri
    173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

    NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Paratroopers from 4th Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, began training their Afghan national army artillery brothers in February at Forward Operating Base Kalagush here.

    Approximately 30 ANA artillerymen assigned to the Field Artillery Company, 4th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps, for the next several weeks will be learning to operate and fire the modern M198 155mm Howitzer by their U.S. Army artillery counterparts from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 4-319th AFAR.

    One important area of focus for the ANA artillery training will be to come away fully capable and proficient in indirect fire in support of their troops on the ground. Indirect artillery fire is critical for the success of the fight in the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

    "Everybody knows the ANA soldiers volunteer, so these soldiers are very interested in artillery and are determined to use this opportunity to learn from the U.S. Soldiers and gain more knowledge," said Field Artillery Company commander ANA 1st Lt. Abdul Nasir Ahmadi, from Kabul. "These are not new soldiers. They have been working for the ANA for four or five years and have had lots of training."

    "The difference now is we have cooperation with the U.S. Soldiers," Ahmadi said. "It is very important because hopefully in the future we will have a M198 howitzer."

    Currently the ANA uses the D-30 Russian howitzer.

    "I really enjoyed shooting and I want to have lots of training on the modern howitzer," said ANA Artillery crew chief, Sgt. 1st Class Falak Naz, from Jalalabad. "I have learned lots of things, different kinds of ammunition, rounds, fuses and how to direct fire for the modern howitzer."

    Working side-by-side with the ANA provides U.S. Soldiers with more than just a training opportunity, but a better understanding of the overall mission and the importance of Operation Enduring Freedom.

    "When I first started working with them I wasn't sure exactly what they would know and with the language barrier how difficult it would be to communicate with them, but since they came with interpreters and after I have been working with them, I have come to find out across the board artillery is artillery. So I think it's just a matter of going from one gun to another," said Army Staff Sgt. James F. Natiello from Aston, Pa., section chief, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 4-319th AFAR.

    "It's good to know these guys are here and they have experience. It gives us Americans confidence in people here to take care of themselves after we leave," said Natiello.

    The Alpha Battery Soldiers are happy to share their experience with their Afghan counterparts.
    "We are helping them learn better techniques on handling and loading ammunition, our safety requirements and the things we do to be safe," said Army Staff Sgt. Trenton R. Farris from Abilene, Texas, 1st section chief for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 4-319th AFAR. "Their motivation and attention to detail is much higher than we anticipated and their discipline is much better than the ANA I've seen in the past. It gives me more hope for the future as far as them being able to take over in their role as artillery for their country."

    Artillery section chief, Army Sgt. 1st Class Wade A. Hunter, from Queens, N.Y., 2nd Platoon, Alpha Battery, 4-319th AFAR, agrees that the training is important for the Afghans to properly defend their own country.

    "As an artilleryman, artillery is the 'King of Battle.' If these guys are proficient at artillery, looking at defending their nation and their citizens this is something you want to be skilled at, something you want to invest in," said Hunter. "It has been proven that artillery is an effective means of defending yourself from the bad guys."

    "For me, this training is pretty exciting. It's exciting enough training fellow Americans, but to do partnership training with someone from a different nationality and see how they do business you feel like you're making a difference," said Hunter. "The impact, the camaraderie, being exposed to another culture and getting a chance to impart your skills and knowledge, it's hard to explain but it's a good feeling."

    No matter what country you are from, artillerymen share a unique love for their job.

    "When we were briefed on this mission, command told us these are our artillery brothers that are coming to train with us. I did not understand what that really meant until these guys got here. Just through this training alone, no matter what nationality you're from, no matter what your cultural background, artillerymen are pretty much the same," said Hunter.

    "The artillery company shows the same kind of attitude when it comes to shooting a round or motivation, their excitement for the mission, it's just like looking at another American group and that's good to see. They do speak a different language but when it comes to body language and attitude, artillerymen are the same."

    "The plan is to have one-on-one training, to impart our knowledge to these guys. For a chief to learn a chiefs job or how he does business you talk to another chief. For a gunner to learn a gunners job the best person to talk to is a gunner and these guys are hands-on and excited," said Hunter. "The mission is to get these guys to a point where we all can be on the same sheet of music."



    Date Taken: 02.11.2008
    Date Posted: 02.11.2008 16:45
    Story ID: 16248

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