CAMP LEATHERNECK, HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Graduates filed in and found their seats, as the Afghanistan and American flag stood waving in the background. Twenty-two Afghans, members of the Afghan National Army and Afghan Uniformed Police, graduated from the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest’s Afghan Small Arms Weapons Instructor Course and Literacy Course, here, Feb. 16.
The academy offers a variety of different military professional courses including the ASAWIC, the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course and Tactical Leaders Course. The courses are designed to further empower the ANA and AUP to lead and instruct their soldiers and police officers.
Staff Sgt. Nigel Dickson, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge, helped oversee the ASAWIC training.
“We train the Afghans in a wide variety of weapons systems,” said Dickson, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y. “We make sure they know how to fire and troubleshoot each weapon adequately.”
Afghan soldiers and policemen were trained on 10 different weapons, varying from the 9mm pistol to the AK-47 assault rifle.
“The hope is they can take everything they learn here and take it back to their squads and teach them,” said Dickson, 5th Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.
Dickson partnered with Afghan instructors and took on the responsibility of training these ANA soldiers and AUP. The academy’s ultimate mission is to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces and prepare the Afghan forces for when Coalition Forces pull out of Afghanistan.
“Before taking this course we were not able to shoot the target as well,” said Sgt. Qudee-Mullah, with 2nd Tolai, 136th Kandak, 215th Corps, ANA, and a recent graduate of the course. “After taking this course, we have become experts in the weapons.”
Dickson is responsible for making sure the Afghans know the weapons inside and out.
“By the time they graduate they not only know how to use each weapon, but how to teach others to use them efficiently too,” said Dickson.
He continued, stating he’s pleased with the students’ knowledge and ability to learn quickly over the course of the class.
“I am very impressed with the Afghans. They have learned everything and can not only operate the weapons but dissemble and troubleshoot the weapons as well,” said Dickson
Dickson worked closely with the Afghans during the six-week course. As the instructor, he showed the Afghans valuable leadership skills. He says he is confident they will take back these skills to their own units and soldiers.
“I learned the professionalism and competence from the instructors,” said Qudee-Mullah. “I’ll be able to carry that forward, to serve as an instructor to my soldiers and make them better.”
Although the graduates just left to return home Dickson was already looking toward the future.
“I’m excited to see the next class come through, from start to finish,” said Dickson. “I want to see how they change from the beginning to the end of the course.”
Editor’s note: Second Marine Division (Forward) 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, Brooklyn native teaches Afghans weapons systems, leadership, by Sgt Timothy Lenzo, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.