News: Afghan led, Marine mentored leave program keeps ANA morale high
Story by Sgt. James Mercure
CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan — The pride of Afghanistan is in its soldiers. The pride of the Afghan soldier is in his family.
To ensure the Afghan soldiers have a chance to see their families, the once Marine-led leave program instituted for the Afghan soldiers is now in their own hands.
Until recently, all leave for the Afghan National Army’s 215th Corps were administratively handled by the Marines of the Embedded Training Team here. As the transition of security takes place, the administration and logistics of some much-needed time off is taken care of by the Afghans as well.
“Our partners, the Marines, have taught us every day to handle these movements of our soldiers,” said Capt. Ghulam Mashtaba Jawad, the transportation executive officer, ANA 215th Corps. “They have done their best and we have learned from them. Now we are ready to take over.”
To overcome some of the challenges faced with planning for, inspecting and moving hundreds of Afghan soldiers, Marine mentors with the Embedded Training Team work behind the scenes to assist when needed.
“The Afghans take care of any problems that come up,” said Sgt. Spencer Smith, the Embedded Training Team air officer advisor and Newnan, Ga., native. “We went from taking care of everything to letting the Afghans take the reins and a lot of improvements have been made to this program.”
Using the model of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps, whose attrition rates dropped from 22 percent to 8 percent after instituting similar programs, the program is continuing to grow and develop with improvements being made as often as possible.
“Imagine if you couldn’t take leave for three years or longer,” Smith said. “After a while you’re going to want to quit. With the Afghans soldiers getting to go on leave, they stay happy because they can have the chance to go home more often.”
Camp Shorabak serves as a hub for Afghan soldiers throughout the province to get processed for leave wherever they live in the country. To date, the Afghans assisted by the Marines, have processed more than 11,000 Afghan soldiers for leave throughout the country, a milestone that has set the tone for how programs similar to this can run effectively in Afghan hands.