FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, AFGHANISTAN
FORWARD OPERATING BASE GERONIMO, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Afghan Local Police recruits stand against a wall, preparing to enter a compound at the ALP Academy on base. They bang against the gate, but the Marine instructors waiting inside, posing as insurgents, quickly tell them to go away. They bang again and again, each time receiving the same response, and decide to enter.
They swiftly detain one suspect with a pistol upon entry and find another hiding in a large bag after thoroughly searching the entire compound. The exercise ends and the instructors, all from 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, rally the recruits to assess their tactics. The instructors praise things the recruits did well and give pointers for areas in which they need improvement.
This compound-clearing exercise was just one of several during a recent day-long training event at the ALP Academy, which transforms citizens of Nawa district from civilians into ALP patrolmen. This most recent group of recruits started its training in early September and graduated Sept. 27. The new ALP patrolmen will now return to their respective villages to serve their local communities.
These police officers will become the first line of defense against traditional criminals and insurgents alike. Their greatest advantage, perhaps, is knowing their local area inside and out, an edge other Afghan uniformed services, such as the Afghan Uniformed Police and Afghan National Civil Order Police, do not have because their police officers come from all parts of the country to serve anywhere in Afghanistan.
“Basically, we want a well-rounded police officer who knows the community that [he’s] going to be serving, … [who] understands the challenges he’s going to face within his village, and can integrate with the AUP if the situation calls for it,” said Harry Evans, a retired Marine master sergeant serving as the 1/9 law enforcement professional and one of the course instructors.
The entire course is only 18 days long, but is packed with training to prepare the recruits to serve their communities effectively, including police tactics such as handcuffing techniques, interviewing skills, self-defense training, and baton techniques, according to Evans. Military tactics have also been infused into the curriculum to help the recruits deal with the unique challenges they will face daily in Nawa district.
“Unlike an urban police officer back in the [United States], these guys are going to be patrolling in a semi-urban/semi-rural environment,” said Evans, who retired from the Jacksonville, N.C., Police Department after retiring from the Marine Corps. “It’s kind of hybrid environment, … so we’re trying to teach them a combination of police tactics and typical Marine rifle squad tactics. It’s kind of a unique idea, actually.”
The recruits have shown they are fast learners, and they look forward to using the techniques they have attained in past weeks.
“So far we got a lot of training about patrols, about some techniques and about the IEDs,” said Mohammad Omar, a newly graduated patrolman. “All this we learned so far, and also the Marine instructors, they are good people. They are hard instructors, so we like them.”
The instructors agree that the new patrolmen have grown significantly since starting training and feel they have a bright future as police officers.
“They’ve made tremendous progress since the first day they got here – it’s almost night and day,” said Evans. “Just watching them since day one start to work together as a team … and understand the concepts we’re teaching them has really surprised us.”
The Marine instructors, as well as the “senior” recruits, deserve much of the credit for the way the platoon developed in such a short period of time. Many of the recruits had a vast military or police background, or both. These recruits spent significant time mentoring the much younger recruits in their late teens and early twenties.
“We have a couple of guys in there that are older gentlemen, probably have served either with official military, one of the official police [services], or maybe just mujahedeen back several years ago,” said Virginia Beach, Va., native Chief Warrant Officer 2 Doug Derring, the 1/9 infantry weapons officer. “Some of them have taken [the lead] with some of the basic things like marching these guys around [in formation] and just instilling some of the real basic military skills like discipline, picking up their area, policing.”
Omar was the platoon’s senior recruit during the training and ensured his fellow recruits maintained discipline and were taken care of.
“This is my responsibilities of the 54 personnel – 55 including me,” said Omar, who fought the Soviets in the 1980s and later served in the Afghan National Police. “I ask questions from all of them. If somebody is sick, then I let the Marines know they are sick.”
Nawa district has served as a prime example of coalition success in Helmand province, where forces have been able to effectively quell most insurgent activity in recent years. The new patrolmen vividly remember what things were like before coalition forces arrived and are determined to prevent their villages from again becoming an insurgent hotbed.
“I want to be a professional police officer,” said Omar, a native of Khalaj village. “I’m going to tell the people, ‘So for how long are you going to sit in your house and the [insurgents] come and kill all you guys and punish you guys? No, that time is over. Just come and join yourselves with the ALP until you get help for the people defending from your village to fight against the [insurgents.]’
“I hope that in the next class,” Omar continued, “In the next training, I would like to bring my son, my relatives, my neighbors, the young – all those people that are young. I would like to bring them to Geronimo so they’re going to get the training [and] go back to help for their people as ALP.”
Editor’s note: 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is 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, Nawa increases security as course graduates Afghan Local Police, by Cpl Tommy Bellegarde, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.