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    Training Afghan National Security Forces for the Long Haul



    Courtesy Story

    129th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion

    FORWARD OPERATING BASE LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Sgt. Jorge Leiva has been driving semitrailer trucks for more than nine years in the U.S. Army. He has spent half of that time on active duty and has deployed three times, including two tours in Iraq and his current deployment to Afghanistan. Sgt. Shane Smith has accumulated more than seven years of time driving trucks in the Army and he too has deployed three times, two to Iraq and now to Afghanistan.

    The two soldiers have combined for more than 12 years of tractor-trailer driving time in the civilian sector, learning the laws and skills to make them successful.

    They are both accustomed to making a difference by driving thousands of miles throughout the United States, Iraq and Afghanistan, but a new program developed between the U.S. Army and Afghan National Security Forces has them contributing to the fight while keeping them in an area the size of a city block.

    They are instructors at the newly created Afghan National Security Forces Driver’s Academy located on Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan. Combined with two material handling equipment instructors, they are teaching Afghan National Army soldiers the basics of transportation operations through a train-the-trainer process. It is a partnership designed to exponentially increase the capacity of the ANSF to sustain itself throughout the country.

    While most partnerships have centered on combat tactics and the driving of tactical vehicles, this one focuses on logistics and how to get needed supplies to those forces in a safe and efficient manner. The U.S. soldiers volunteered from adjacent Forward Operating Base Leatherneck to build the program from the ground up.

    “Three of the five Afghan soldiers in our class had never even touched a vehicle before we started,” said Leiva, a native of Keasbey, N.J., and a member of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 212th Transportation Company of Chattanooga, Tenn. “They’ve gone from riding donkeys to driving M915s in just a few weeks.”
    That’s not an exaggeration either.

    One of the many challenges faced by the trainers was to build a program of instruction for somebody who had never driven a car, truck or motorcycle before, and build it for soldiers who speak a totally different language – who might not be able to read – so that they could then in turn teach others the fundamentals.

    “The secret of our success in U.S. and Afghan relations is to create a fundamentally sound partnership in order to assist building a strong country,” said 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion Executive Officer Maj. John Richardson while addressing the trainers. “I met a 14-year-old driving a host nation truck last week at our movement control yard. You do not know the level of experience you will get. The goal is to make your counterpart as good as – if not better – than you at training other Afghans.”

    Richardson, one of the driving forces behind the partnership, found the U.S. soldiers who had the technical expertise in his own battalion and back yard. He knew that his soldiers had a drive to be the best and accomplish the mission, so he explained what he wanted and let them run with it.

    Learning How to Teach

    In order for the process to be successful however, the Army would need a bit of help from the Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, to learn how ANSF forces operate.

    Along with the NATO Training Mission, CSTC-A is responsible for generating and sustaining ANSF forces, developing leaders and establishing enduring institutional capacity in order to enable accountable Afghan-led security. They work with the entities such as the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Civil Order Police in their mission.
    Air Force Maj. Jeffrey Hoffman, a CSTC-A advisor and mentor, led the instructors through a weeklong course in counterinsurgency operations, Afghan logistics history, current Afghan logistics operations, what the future holds and what International Security Forces must accomplish to help Afghanistan build a sustainable supply and distribution network.

    It was an eye-opening class, as the 68th CSSB soldiers came to realize that before the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, there was practically no logistical or distribution system in the country. While some of them had been out on convoys before, they also quickly realized that driver’s training would be critical so the Afghan drivers would be able to handle the 18,500 miles of unpaved roads in the country – triple the amount of paved roads here.

    After sorting through countless technical manuals, field manuals and army regulations, a program started to come together. While Smith and Leiva worked on putting together the information for the semitrailers, Sgt. Spencer Pittman and Spc. Thomas Dew, both of the U.S. Army Reserve’s 849th Quartermaster Company of Rocky Mount, N.C., set to work on gathering information to build a training program for material handling equipment operation, specifically for 4K and 10K forklifts.

    “One of the biggest obstacles has been the translation,” said Pittman, a native of Battleboro, N.C. “We had to understand the concept of translating from U.S. to Pashtu, and realize a lot of the technical terms don’t translate at all.”

    From Paper to Person

    The instructors built their program, focusing on the basics of the vehicles and equipment, how their groups would be split in order to train, laying out the tasks, conditions and standards of the training and what they hoped to accomplish.

    After three weeks of research and planning, the day arrived for students to meet instructors, for U.S. Soldiers to meet their Afghan counterparts.

    The first day started with a meet and greet, as ten trainees, four instructors and two interpreters divided into semitrailer and forklift classes. Neither group wasted time, as the instructors were eager to teach and the trainees eager to learn.

    Each ANA soldier received a binder provided by their U.S. instructor, but it was soon obvious that this was going to be all about hands-on training.

    The hands-on approach helped the instructors to side-step around the language barrier. One successful technique was employed by Sgt. Pittman and Spc. Dew, as they attempted to teach hand and arm signals. The technique started with all of the trainees lining up shoulder to shoulder, their right arm extended out in front slightly to represent the extendable boom of the forklift, with two fingers pointed out to represent the forks. When Sgt. Pittman gave a hand signal, each student used their body, arm or fingers to show what the forklift should be doing in response. This taught both the driver and the ground guide, and the instructors were instantly able to grade the students.

    “They listened well and had a great understanding of what we were doing,” said Pittman. “It was fun to them. They enjoyed it and that made it fun for us. Plus, they really relate to the hand signals. They help each other out and they relay it on. There will be no problem with them passing the knowledge down.”

    A key part of the training was not only how to operate the equipment, but how to care for it. As any commander or subject matter expert knows, all the training in the world will be useless if you fail to perform routine operator level maintenance and the equipment stops working.

    Preventive maintenance and safety were major pillars in the instruction, and were preached and practiced during every training session.

    By the end of the first week, the ANA students were easily pointing out features of their equipment, what to check before they climb into the cab and how to ensure safe operation. It was finally time to get behind the wheel.

    Taking the Controls

    There was no hesitation from any of the students to make the transition from talking about driving to actually doing it. In fact, it was a common occurrence to see a bit of pushing and manhandling of each other to see who would go first each time training began. The instructors played on the competition and managed to incorporate it into their training.

    After a few days of teaching basic operation and maneuvering, the instructors set up different obstacle courses and “missions” and timed different drivers and ground guides to see who would perform the best.

    In one example, a driver of a 10K forklift and his ground guide would have to maneuver through a set of cones which created a “T” intersection. The driver would take the forklift to the end, extend the boom and lift a stack of pallets out of a space only a few inches wider than the stack, back it all out and place it back at the other end of the “T” without touching any of the cones.

    The going was slow to start, but once the drivers began following the ground guides and trusting in their ability to correctly use the hand and arm signals, the times got quicker and quicker.

    The reward for the quick times was chips and sodas the U.S. Soldiers brought from FOB Leatherneck. It created an incentive program that also helped to strengthen the bond between soldiers of both nationalities.

    “After we first got started, I thought it was going to be easier than the battalion told us,” said Spc. Dew, a native of Norfolk, Va. “We gave them a chance to show us what they know and what they could do. They really love what they’re doing, feel privileged that they were selected for this training and appreciate us being here.”

    Both groups progressed to more difficult tasks. For the semitrailer group, straight-line backing proved to be one of the most difficult. But once again, the instructors used that to their advantage.

    “The concept of backing straight with a trailer was hard for them to grasp,” said Sgt. Smith, a member of the 541st Transportation Company and native of Church Point, La. “But we took that and made the ones that could do it well train the others. The last week or so, we just kind of observed while they taught each other. The program of instruction we put together worked out perfect. Not only did we get to see how well they could drive, but how well they trained each other.”

    Expanding on the Success

    The first session has ended after five weeks of training. The ANA soldiers who learned semitrailer driving are now learning how to drive forklifts, while the forklift operators are getting used to the arduous task of straight-line backing tractor-trailers. They will train for another five weeks before venturing out to train other ANA soldiers.

    That will not end the partnership, however. In fact, along with the selection of the next class of trainees to participate in the Camp Shorabak ANSF Driver’s Academy, the program has already begun to expand. Throughout the Helmand and Kandahar Provinces, U.S. soldiers are teaming up with ANSF counterparts to create logistics and sustainment partnerships. In Lashkar Gah, U.S. soldiers are providing training and assistance in warehousing and supply management to ANP forces.

    In Kandahar, a partnership has started to help train ANA soldiers in maintenance. All of the programs are designed to build Afghanistan into a self sufficient and prosperous nation, while reducing the U.S. footprint.

    The commander of the 43D Sustainment Brigade, Col. Edward Daly, had this insight into the goals of the program and the fulfillment of its objectives.

    “Our focus is to build ANSF capacity over time. This is going to become a deal where everybody is rolling their sleeves up and figuring it out,” said Daly. “Everywhere you look and see, you can look at it from a standpoint that they are building logistics capability, and from being on the ground and my foxhole, it looks as if it’s constantly getting better.”

    The U.S. instructors will eventually redeploy back home to drive trucks or material handling equipment as part of active duty units, reserve units and civilian employers.

    They hope that their efforts will be the foundation of a more skilled security force, and that the trainees will pass their knowledge on to others in order to build a better Afghanistan.

    “That’s the true test,” said Richardson. “The final exam will take place years after these U.S. soldiers are gone. Their passing grade will be an enduring driver’s training program and an investment by the Afghan people in a stronger infrastructure.”



    Date Taken: 10.31.2010
    Date Posted: 11.19.2010 05:52
    Story ID: 60463

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