News: Afghan forces prepare to take reigns in Kajaki security
Story by Lance Cpl. Tyler Reiriz
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan - On a damp and cloudy Kajaki morning, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment Police Advisory Team, drove up a steep mountainside and across a road atop the Kajaki Dam, and to a makeshift rifle range to instruct a marksmanship class for Afghan Uniformed Police officers, April 19.
The class was part of a larger effort by the Marines to prepare the Afghan National Security Forces to take full responsibility of security operations in Kajaki and the surrounding areas.
The Afghan National Army units in Kajaki have reached a point where they are self-sustaining, and the Afghan Uniformed Police are now striving to attain the same level of independence.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Sanders said when he first assumed his role as ANA advisor of Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, the local ANA forces were completely dependent on help from the Marines.
“When we first got here, the ANA did very little training on their own,” Sanders said. “They would very rarely go on patrols by themselves.”
Sanders said in a few short months, the ANA forces developed to a point where they are now capable of working completely independent of the Marines, logistically and operationally.
The progress came as a result of hard work and training between the Marines and ANA soldiers. Sanders employed a variety of techniques to help the ANA build their confidence and become more self-reliant.
Sanders said one of the most effective teaching tactics he used was a method referred to as train-the-trainer. The day prior to a scheduled lesson, he would gather the ANA leaders and train them until they were proficient enough to instruct their own soldiers while Marines merely advised.
Sergeant Joshua V. Armstrong, a team leader serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Police Advisory Team 1, works with the AUP. His unit patrols and trains with the AUP in an effort to help them develop the same level of independence as the Kajaki ANA.
Armstrong, a native of Timber Hills, N.C., and his Marines acted as instructors for this rifle range, but the class was about more than developing marksmanship skills – it also gave their leaders a chance to lead by example.
To increase the morale of the AUP members, Hajii Zahir Jan, the assistant chief of police for the Kajaki AUP, made a surprise visit here and joined his men at the rifle range. He took some tips and pointers from the Marines on his firing techniques, and then assisted the Marines with instructing and encouraging the other Afghan officers.
“Hajii Zahir Jan is one of the top ranking AUP (in the area),” said Armstrong. “It’s always a good thing to see him step up as a leader like that. The AUP respond really strongly to that.”
The officers fired AK-47s in sitting, kneeling, and prone positions, while Marines evaluated their performance and gave pointers along the way.
Armstrong said that marksmanship is just a part of the bigger picture in preparing the AUP to take on greater responsibilities.
“One of the most important things to do is to get them to a point where they can train their own new recruits,” he said. “We need to make them confident so that when they get new recruits and they take over security, they won’t be hesitant. It won’t be anything new or different for them.”
Editor's Note: The Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, 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.