News: Bayonet advisers develop Afghan systems
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts
JOINT COMBAT OUTPOST FORTITUDE, Afghanistan – Only a few months from heading home, soldiers with B Company, 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, have forged a stronger relationship with Afghan police in Imam Sahib after transitioning to the security force assistance team structure adopted by the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The brigade’s security force assistance teams advise Afghan police across northern Afghanistan to improve their logistics, intelligence, maintenance, administration and training, and rule of law capabilities.
At Fortitude, soldiers with the Imam Sahib District Advisory Team are collocated with the Imam Sahib’s district police headquarters. The close-knit relationship with their counterparts has allowed the soldiers to offer advice as friends and not merely outsiders.
Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hunt, the senior enlisted member with the Imam Sahib team, is on his fifth combat tour. January will mark his 50th month in a combat zone. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native said his job as the administration and training adviser “is a lot like being a platoon sergeant, except it's for 200 Afghan police.”
Since the transition to the security force assistance team mission in November, he and an Afghan police personnel officer have been working together to complete data sheets for every policeman in the district.
Once complete, the sheets will give Hunt and his counterparts an understanding of which patrolmen and officers need to attend the ministry of the interior’s required courses offered in Kunduz and Kabul. The policemen can work at their units for up to a year without attending formal training.
The organizing of personnel data also brings “ghost soldiers” to light. As policemen shift between assignments at the district and its subordinate precincts, they’re sometimes paid even when they don’t show up to work.
“Knowing how the system works, and enforcing it and applying it are two different things,” Hunt said to his counterparts during a morning meeting. His demeanor was straightforward - not angry and certainly not cautious. Blunt.
“You have to search and hunt to try and figure it out,” he said.
What would be considered corruption in the U.S. Army might be the only answer the Afghan police had for a problem. The Bushmasters are careful not to overstep their boundaries but want to help.
“We’ve spent a lot of time talking ... We could force them to do everything perfectly, but they’re not going to learn anything that way. It might make us look good while we’re here, but it's not going to be lasting. A small lasting impression is more important than a short-term greatness,” Hunt said.
He said the advice he and his soldiers offer to the police would be impossible without the close relationship developed over the last year, and even more so since their transition to security force assistance.
“Now, we’re immersed in it. We’re in extremely deep. And once you get there, you find a lot more problems,” he said.
All the advisers have “made it a point to become intimately close with their counterparts,” said Hunt, who eats most of his lunches at the district headquarters. “You can see it on any of the police when they walk by. They give somebody a hug and a smile. It makes a big difference.”
At the meeting, Hunt asked the policemen about a rumor that a civilian cook on the headquarters’ staff was being paid under the table. The deal was most likely made out of necessity because the cook that “is on the books” is usually on patrol or manning a checkpoint.
Hunt said that candid conversations about “touchy subjects” are only possible after friendships have been forged, and although he and his soldiers see solutions, they ensure the policemen come up with an answer that works for them.
He said that even the personnel files might yield limited success. The police are currently using U.S. folders that are unavailable through the Afghan’s supply network. But if the folder and filing system itself are eventually replaced, Hunt’s plan allowed the district’s personnel officer to teach his subordinate officer at the Imam Sahib precinct the new system. The by-product was crosstalk between the two echelons of police – a small win with an enduring impact.
Hunt said, “I’d rather make a little bit of progress that’s lasting than have a façade that everything’s perfect. Then when we leave, it all goes to hell.”