News: Local soldier mentors Afghan police in Kabul
Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Fahey
KABUL, Afghanistan – As Task Force Spartan 3’s armored convoy stopped at the congested Freedom Circle, Nov. 8, in downtown Kabul, the 15 specially trained soldiers – including Cleveland native and Spartan 3 Team Leader Army Staff Sgt. Mark Moon – dismounted to find the Afghan National Police set up, ready and already searching vehicles.
“Since we’ve started doing our checkpoints and mentoring the Afghan police, I’ve seen a big difference in their work ethic and capability,” said Spartan 3 Team Leader Army Staff Sgt. Mark Moon. “The checkpoints we’ve helped them work are being run correctly and nearly autonomously.”
Stood up in early September, Task Force Spartan consists of several teams most of which are based at Camp Phoenix, Kabul. Spartan 3 is the group’s largest and only element based at Camp Eggers, Kabul. They were charged by Commander, Task Force Yankee Brig. Gen. John A. Hammond to serve as combat advisors to ANP officials at more than 50 different checkpoints within five Afghan police districts spread out across the densely populated city of more than 3.9 million people.
“There are a lot of people out here,” said Moon. “We show the Afghan police how to protect themselves and catch insurgents. Ultimately, this will help ensure a successful security transition in 2014.”
According to Spartan 3 Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Master Sgt. Jerry Dees, completing their mission demanded a higher pedigree of soldier.
“We needed the best and got them,” said Dees. “Every single person on this team was handpicked based on their capabilities, motivation and overall desire to conduct themselves as professional soldiers. Spartan 3 can communicate extremely well and understands that building a good rapport with the Afghan police requires respect and courtesy.”
Spartan 3 mentors work shoulder to shoulder with ANP officers, demonstrating ways to identify possible vehicle born improvised explosive devices, vehicle and personnel searches and how to set up traffic control points. This mission places Spartan 3 in a unique position where each action results in a measurable success or failure and pushes the most junior Soldier to perform as a seasoned warfighter.
“Being a leader fills me with a lot of confidence,” said Spc. Matthew Crane, Spartan 3’s most junior truck commander. “Proving that I’m capable of doing the job of a non-commissioned officer gives me a lot of fulfillment.”
In addition to directly supporting NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan’s goal to train and mentor Afghans in preparation for the 2014 security transition, Spartan 3’s efforts also support Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior priority to counter internal corruption. By setting a positive example both externally in the way Spartan 3 soldiers engage the Afghan community and internally in the way the team interoperates with each other, Afghan police see a reachable standard that emphasizes common respect – a lesson Moon says comes naturally by way of a classic soldier mentality.
“When you talk to soldiers, you hear them talk about why they go to war,” said Moon. “It’s always about the brothers and sisters next to them. I’m here for my team, and we are all here for each other. When we work with the ANP, we demonstrate this in our actions. They are happy to see us and appreciate us being there.”
Activated in 2009, NTM-A is a coalition of 37 contributing nations charged with assisting the government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in generating a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force ready to take lead of their country’s security by 2014.