By First Lieutenant David Kearns
As the combat mission in Afghanistan winds down in favor of a strictly advisory role, the Coalition’s success and the long-term security for the struggling nation will depend heavily on the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). While ISAF Forces have been working with and fighting alongside ANSF for years now, the fruits of our labor will be most apparent as we increasingly take a backseat and allow the Afghans to plan, execute, and lead their own missions. Time is short, and while we may not be able to solve all of the Country’s problems, one realm that we can still positively affect is the training and preparation of the Afghan Soldiers and Police.
I was deployed in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM XI-XII with a Combat Engineer Company task organized as a Rifle Company. During our 11 month deployment we operated in multiple districts throughout Wardak and Ghazni Provinces. Throughout this time we were partnered with two separate Afghan National Army (ANA) Companies and one Kandak (Battalion), each with a different personality, strengths, and weaknesses. One of our primary goals was to train these ANA and help them become effective and successful. We were never under any illusion that we could turn these Afghan Soldiers into a fully trained and professional Army in 11 months, however, it was driven from our Company Command Team down to us, that investing in our Afghan Partners would be the most effective and enduring thing we could do. It would be our legacy. The way I viewed it, and what I tried to communicate to the leaders and Soldiers in my Platoon, was “We don’t have enough time to make them perfect, but we can teach them enough that they live long enough to learn everything else they need to know.” It may not be the most eloquent way to put it, but I believed, and still believe, that it was a realistic and achievable goal. By the end of our tour and all the lessons learned that came from it, our Company was successful in training and mentoring a very successful Kandak. There are four principals that embody what made us successful. They are; understand, train, empower, and trust.Read More