News: TF Strength, ANA partnership tested in equipment rodeo
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The partnership between coalition forces and Afghan National Army soldiers continued on Forward Operating Base Shank with a friendly material handling equipment rodeo competition, June 20.
Soldiers of 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s Task Force Strength worked with Afghan soldiers from 5th Combat Service Support Kandak, 4th Brigade, 203rd ANA Corps in the week leading up to the event.
U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Blaylock, a truck driver for Company A, 94th BSB from Cleveland, said he appreciated the extra time he had to work with his ANA counterpart due to everything they had to learn for the competition.
“We spent a whole day on [Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services] as far as how to identify the different types of leaks and how to mark deficiencies for their vehicles,” said Blaylock. “[Also] we used broken pallets to train [the ANA] on using the forklifts.”
The training wasn’t just to get the ANA on par with their TF Strength partners however. It brought the U.S. soldiers up to speed as well.
“The hand and arm signals [the Afgans use], I didn’t know any of those,” said U.S. Army Spc. Frank Lopez, a truck driver for Company A, 94th BSB and native of New York. “Hand and arm signals were also a challenge for us because of the language barrier. Once we established a hand and arm signal routine, we could [communicate] to each other without talking.”
The competition took place on Camp Maiwand, the ANA headquarters on FOB Shank. Three two-man teams, each consisting of one ANA and one TF Strength soldier, competed in three events to determine which group had progressed the most in the week of training leading up to the event.
“[The competition] is a function to ensure that they [ANA and U.S.] train together on PMCS, hand-and-arm signals for operating a forklift; and ... safely loading and unloading equipment from a vehicle,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Coston, 94th BSB commander and native of Hot Springs, Ark. “They switched who was doing the driving and operating [the forklift] and who was doing the hand and arm signals to ensure that they could communicate and follow the commands.”
The event focused on partnership over competition as everyone involved received certificates of achievement. The two-man teams to finish their tasks in the quickest time determined the overall best team. Coston presented coins to the winning team for their hard work.
The HME operators said the training and competition created a bonding experience that will last well after the event.
“The combination of ANA and U.S [soldiers] made for a great time,” said Kamaran Safi, the commander’s driver for 5th CSS Kandak. "I am very happy. I didn’t have any problems.”
“I am extremely glad we did it,” said Blaylock. “I made a new friend. I think we should do this more often.”
Coston said he is pleased with how the event turned out and that it furthers the partnership between coalition forces and the ANA.
“The partnership, in general, has been fantastic with the 5th CSS Kandak. They were new here when we got here, and so we have grown together,” said Coston. “This is just another step in the continued evolution of our partnership. It’s a pleasure to work with them. We learn as much from them as they do from us, and we’re really grateful for the opportunity.”