CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Two 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) Marines recently volunteered to serve with the Joint Security Academy Southwest, and have been acting as troop escorts for the Afghan National Security Forces attending training.
Cpl. Rolando Pintos and Lance Cpl. Carlos Valles received the opportunity to work outside of their regular duties with 3rd MAW (Fwd) to assist in the training of the Afghan National Army, police and border patrol troops at JSAS.
“Being an administration clerk for the Marines, I expected to be behind a desk in a support role during my deployment, but I knew the wing would present other opportunities, and I let my command know I was willing,” said Valles. “I’ve gone back to the roots of being a Marine and gained so much from this experience.”
The Marines functioning as troop escorts for JSAS work in a similar capacity as a drill instructor. The Marines pick up classes, which vary in length from weeks to months, of ASF and see them through from start to finish. Their 14-16 hour days consist of guiding Afghan troops from their billeting to training events and classes. The escorts also play an active role in the education and training, though they do not function in official instructor positions.
“It’s an amazing experience here being able to see the tangible results of your work. You can’t see that while working on a Harrier,” said Pintos, an avionics technician for the AV-8B. “I have already gained so much from this deployment. It’s made me a better Marine, and I think all Marines should get this opportunity.”
Pintos originally volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan as a base security augment after finishing a seven-month deployment with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Upon arriving here, he was given the opportunity to augment a JSAF team and eagerly accepted the assignment.
Augments play a crucial role in the mission accomplishment of JSAS. They supply the academy with sufficient manpower to ensure the ANSF receive adequate and professional training.
“We started here with only 23 Marines coming from combat-arms [military occupations], “ said Sgt. Dane Riddle, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of JSAS Team 2. “We couldn’t get the job done without augments like this. It takes a great amount of maturity and patience to do what they do.”
The Marines at JSAS put an extreme emphasis on professionalism. They place the ANSF students in a classroom environment where they are able to learn their course material to the fullest. The students are expected to give and receive the same military courtesies practiced by the service members here. Once students leave JSAS the intent is for the graduates to execute their training without the assistance of coalition forces.
“We treat the students here as equals, just like we would treat Marines in a formal school,” said Valles, a Fontana, Calif., native. “The intent is to train them the way we train so that they can operate as independently as we do.”
The troop escorts conduct the same training exercises as their assigned class and assist the ANSF students in learning the content. Their particular duties change from class to class, depending on the JSAS students’ curriculum. While on the range, the escorts will act as range safety staff; while training Afghan National Army recruits, they may lead patrols into local villages.
Students who graduate JSAS return to their respective units and villages and spread the knowledge they have learned during their time at the academy. As the graduates here continue to succeed, the stability and self-sustainment of Afghanistan becomes an increasing tangible outcome for the service members dedicated to their country.
“This duty has given me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment,” said Valles. “I feel comfortable knowing the students I see graduate will take this training and serve their country to the best of their ability.”
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This work, JSAS augments fill critical role in ANSF training, by SSgt Derek Carlson, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.