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    Afghan soldiers develop into machine gun leaders under the guidance of ‘America’s Battalion’

    Afghan soldiers develop into machine gun leaders under the guidance of ‘America’s Battalion’

    Photo By Sgt. Reece Lodder | Afghan National Army Sgt. Fasil Rahim, a machine gunner with 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade,...... read more read more

    SHAMSHAD, AFGHANISTAN

    02.21.2012

    Story by Cpl. Reece Lodder 

    Regimental Combat Team-5, 1st Marine Division

    SHAMSHAD RANGE, Helmand province, Afghanistan — Standing tall over a line of prone Afghan soldiers shouldering machine guns, a bulky U.S. Marine instructor screams for them to prepare to fire their weapons.

    Their shared vocabulary spans only a handful of words and phrases, but the prone gunners respond by loudly repeating the commands in heavily accented English. Their shouts disappear into a staccato symphony as the deafening strings of machine gun fire pepper targets hundreds of meters away.

    Afghan National Army soldiers with 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, fired machine guns under the guidance of Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment’s Embedded Training Team in the final event of a machine gun operators course here, Feb. 21.

    Rather than focusing solely on weapons handling and employment, the 20-day course concentrated on developing ANA sergeants, or non-commissioned officers, as machine gun team leaders, said 1st Lt. David Rooks, an operations advisor with the 3/3 ETT.

    As Afghan forces become more independent in the conduct of security operations in Garmsir district, the ETT Marines are focused on teaching ANA leaders how to employ their men in this mission.

    “As our footprint becomes smaller in Garmsir and the Afghan forces take the lead in providing security, we’re helping their NCOs build knowledge and pass on what they’ve learned to their junior soldiers,” said Rooks, a 32-year-old native of Garland, Texas.

    Splitting instruction between three machine gun systems, the Marines worked to further the ANA soldiers’ knowledge, including components, handling, cleaning and proper employment of these weapons. Finally, they learned how to lead teams of machine gunners.

    “The soldiers we’ve taught aren’t going to be the gunners,” said Cpl. Jason Misener, a 21-year-old rifleman with 3/3’s ETT and native of Hackettstown, N.J. “They’re going to pick up rank and be responsible for their own teams, so we need to make sure they’re ready to do so.”

    Moving from the classroom to the desert, the Afghan soldiers put their skills to the test. They assembled and lubricated their weapons, a methodical precursor to sending rounds downrange.

    On their instructor’s command, machine gun teams traded bursts of fire to create an endless barrage of bullets — a method known by the Marines as ‘talking guns.' Grinning instructors stood close behind, excited to see the proficiency resulting from nearly three weeks of instruction.

    Despite finding great benefit in the classroom instruction, ANA Staff Sgt. Islamadin Mohmand said his favorite part of the course was employing what he learned on the range. He looked forward to returning to his unit to begin sharing the knowledge gained during the course.

    “I’m confident I can turn around and teach what I’ve learned to my soldiers,” said Mohmand, a machine gunner with 3rd Tolai, 2/1/215. “This puts less stress on our kandak because we don’t have to rely on our counterparts as much … we can conduct training on our own level.”

    With a view to Afghan-led security in Garmsir, he stressed the importance of Afghan leaders sharing their knowledge and experience.

    “Our country’s future depends on this,” Mohmand said. “If you have knowledge but hide it in your head or your heart, you’ll die with it.”

    Editor’s note: Third Battalion, 3rd 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 Forces 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 the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 02.21.2012
    Date Posted: 02.22.2012 14:25
    Story ID: 84191
    Location: SHAMSHAD, AF
    Hometown: DALLAS, TX, US
    Hometown: GARLAND, TX, US
    Hometown: HACKETTSTOWN, NJ, US
    Hometown: JOHNSTOWN, PA, US
    Hometown: WINFIELD, AL, US

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