SANGIN DISTRICT, HELMAND PROVINCE, ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN, AFGHANISTAN
SANGIN DISTRICT, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan -- Afghan National Army leadership have been improving their base defenses and their skill level with the help of Marine advisor teams in Sangin.
Recently a partnered patrol, that included ANA soldiers from the 1st Tolay, 2nd Kandak, and Marines of Advisor Team 2, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, conducted a command visit to two ANA patrol bases.
This patrol was an opportunity for the Marines from the Advisor Team because they were able to see the mentoring given to the partnered Afghan commander passed on to the Afghan second in command.
Capt. Abdulmahman Hamid, the ANA kandak commander, chose to patrol on foot through the town of Sareagar and use the event to demonstrate to his executive officer how the company patrols. The mission was to visit Patrol Bases Shamshear Sey and Shamshear Char but Hamid could have easily chosen to patrol to the bases in vehicles. A long hot walk was chosen over a quick ride.
“An achievement of the patrol was that I had the XO with me and showed him how we patrol. We brought the soldiers morale higher and heard the problems and issues at the bases,” said Hamid, from the Kapija province. “It is important to patrol on foot because when we attract attention from local citizens, we show that we are tough against the enemy.”
The patrol was a chance for the Marine advisors to observe the platoon-sized element of Afghan infantry in action and gauge their improvement since the team arrived in country. The biggest development they have seen is the soldiers assumption of specific roles. What once appeared to be a mob of identical soldiers is now a formation held together by small-unit leadership. 1st Lt. Brian T. Vandenberg, the team leader for Advisor Team 2, has noticed the non-commissioned officers develop and carry out their duties on patrols.
“We go out with the ANA because their training is a huge part of our mission here. In this environment we are not afforded the opportunity to train them how we would in the states; So we have to train them on the job,” said Vandenberg, from Hudsonville, Mich. “The way we assess the Afghan base defenses is not me going out there and doing it for them. It’s me going out there with Capt. Hamid helping in the decision making process and helping him do the assessment.”
Vandenberg’s job is to mentor, coach and teach Hamid while leading his own team of Marines.
“It is ultimately to get him to make the decision and develop the thought process in him to be able to make the decisions. We don’t want to be the ones doing the assessment for them,” added Vandenberg. “I went up there with the Afghan commander so he could actually get eyes on. Rather than just hearing about it and making an uninformed decision.”
Hamid was able to meet with the troops and see what they needed to improve the base’s defense. He cited the need for additional barriers at one patrol base and the need for larger fields of observation at another.
“We have a lot of imperfections so it is important that I go there physically, see the problem and make decisions on the spot,” said Hamid. “Having an advisor helps us sort out issues and problems when we have trouble.”
As the team leader, Vandenberg was there as a subject matter expert in infantry tactics, to advise Hamid in the decision making process behind defensive operations. For Vandenberg helping Hamid make a decision means letting the Afghan commander know that he is truly in charge.
“Being with an advisor team is a different kind of satisfaction in your job,” said Vandenberg, a 2007 graduate of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. “We are not looking for the credit on anything. Our mission is to help the ANA improve and be with them on every step.”
Editors Note: A tolay is an Afghan infantry company and a kandak is a battalion. The 1st Tolay, 2nd Kandak is a subordinate unit of the 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps, Afghan National Army. U.S. Marine 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment is a subordinate unit of Regimental Combat Team 8 dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Afghan Army Improves Defenses in Sangin, by Sgt Benjamin Crilly, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.