News: Afghan artillerymen conduct illumination shoot
Story by Anthony Ward Jr
COMBAT OUTPOST FIDDLER'S GREEN, Afghanistan - As the transition toward Afghan-led security continues, coalition forces in southern Helmand province are focusing their advising efforts on developing the Afghan National Army’s combat support capabilities.
The Combat Support Advisory Team, comprised mainly of Marines from 11th Marine Regiment, are tasked with mentoring the ANA’s 4th Kandak, 1st Brigade, 215th Corps, in basic infantry skills and specialty areas like medical, combat engineering and artillery.
“We lucked out, Capt. Erskine’s team who was our predecessor did a great job with their time here,” said Capt. Brian Sargent, officer in charge of the CSAT. “Most of the sections in the 4th Kandak were pretty much provisional infantry.”
“The artillery section, went from being provisional infantry to where they’re actually firing in support of combat [operations],” Sargent added.
The CSAT is tasked with aiding ANA development in all aspects of combat support operations, but the kandak’s artillery section was put on display when Afghan and Marine leadership visited Combat Outpost Fiddler’s Green, May 6.
Major Gen. Sayeed Malook, the 215th Corps commanding general, and Maj. Gen. David H. Berger, the commanding general of 1st Marine Division (Forward) were among the visitors who watched ANA artillerymen fire illumination rounds in support of ANA operations in the Shorshorak region of Nawa district.
The illumination shoot was an opportunity to the improvements made by 4th Kandak under the mentorship of the previous CSAT from Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines.
“I saw great improvements,” said Staff Sgt. Kelvin Stewart, operations chief for the previous CSAT. “We got them to use their logistics side to get the stuff they needed and go through all the planning processes.”
“Our total was 188 rounds that they shot,” added Stewart, compared to the 44 rounds their predecessors shot with the soldiers.
The experience of the 4th Kandak artillerymen allowed them to perform well under the pressure inherent to a visit from senior Afghan and Marine officials.
“The Afghan fire direction center is pretty good, they know how to plot grids and get the range deflection,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth M. Lipscomb II, artillery operations chief for the incoming CSAT.
“They were excited, you know everybody likes to show off… they were fired up and ready to go,” said Stewart. “I think that’s due to us pushing them and telling them ‘you can do it’… giving them that self-motivation.”
Seeing how far the 4th Kandak soldiers have progressed will allow the incoming Marine advisers to build upon the basic skills these Afghan artillerymen have already acquired.
“The main thing is working on getting them more advanced skills, they got the basics down,” said Lipscomb.
“My team is ready to take all the good that Capt. Erskine’s team has done and keep on pushing forward and expanding the knowledge base,” said Sargent. “With the artillery, they know how to do the math, but they don’t know why they do the math. They got the basics, they can shoot, but we want to them know ‘Hey when this changes, this is why it’s changing’.”
The new CSAT will continue the work of their predecessors, developing the combat support capabilities of 4th Kandak. As Afghan forces across the country prepare to take the lead in securing their nation, these capabilities will become even more vital to the success of counterinsurgency operations in southern Helmand.
Editor’s Note: The Combat Support Advisory Team is currently operating in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which 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 ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.