Story and photo by Sgt. Jessica Ostroska
Regional Command Southwest
CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan (March 23, 2014) — More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers graduated from the Regional Corps Battle School aboard Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan, during a ceremony March 20.
The training conducted at RCBS is Afghan-led, with Marines advising the Afghan instructors as needed.
The Afghan instructors are hand-selected by the Marine advisors and then trained and mentored on how to be an instructor, including how to teach military occupational specialty skill sets to their soldiers.
“Just eight months ago, they were civilians and now they are teaching the future of the Afghan National Army,” said Master Sgt. Chris Willenbecher, operations chief, RCBS. “It is inspiring to see them doing it on their own and doing it well with us pulled completely back. We’d only give them advice after the classes and during the breaks. They have actual skill sets and marksmanship training; they have weapons assigned and know how to battle sight zero them. This is the first time this has happened in a long time.”
All the Afghan soldiers attended the Basic Warrior Training boot camp course prior to their MOS training. Following MOS training, many of them conducted a mortarmen course, Military Operations in Urban Terrain training, a D-30 122 mm howitzer class, and conducted casualty evacuations training with the ANA Mi-17 helicopters.
According to Willenbecher, some ANA soldiers throughout Helmand and Nimroz provinces lack marksmanship skills, don’t know how to BZO their weapon systems properly, or they are just grabbed and put behind a certain weapon system.
“Now there’s a large group of trained men that have gone through courses, from machine gunners and mortarmen to cooks and vehicle mechanics, and they know their MOS well and will perform that efficiently on the battlefield,” said Willenbecher.
Sergeant Wahid with the 215th Corps at RCBS said the training they have received from the instructors has made them ready to defend their land.
“The training was good,” said Wahid. “We’ve learned a lot of stuff here, especially from the advisors, now the soldiers are very professional and ready to do their job and get stationed wherever the 215th Corps wants to send them. We are all motivated and excited. We don’t worry about the enemy. We are happy to serve our country, the training we have done over the past months has made us proficient. The soldiers have such positive morale because this is our homeland, because this is our motherland. This is our country, we will provide security and shoulder-to-shoulder we will take care of our people.”
This is the first time a graduation of this magnitude has been held, as well as the first time a large number of ANA soldiers have been assigned to an entire kandak, or battalion-sized element, prior to their graduation.
“The 6th Kandak was just formed a few days ago for the 4th Brigade, 215th Corps, and will be forward deployed in preparation for the upcoming elections,” said Willenbecher. “This is the first time a kandak was taken directly from boot camp and given different MOS skill sets. This is a big deal, and the Afghans have led the whole process.”
The 215th Corps is made up of four brigades. Within each brigade there are six kandaks; however, up to this point 4th Brigade has only had five. This newly formed kandak will eventually be attached to 4th Brigade.
Afghan National Army Sgt. Novikhil, a weapons instructor with 215th Corps, RCBS, said the 6th Kandak will be responsible for protecting the Afghan locals during the upcoming presidential elections.
“I’m really happy and glad for the students graduating today,” said Novikhil. “We try our best to teach them everything we know. Most of these students are going to be part of the 6th Kandak. I feel confident that they are ready to serve and protect their country, and they are ready to protect the Afghan locals during the elections.”
While many Afghan soldiers attend RCBS, there are still many who are unable to make it to Camp Shorabak for the training, so the ANA soldiers will be responsible for passing on their training and knowledge to their fellow soldiers when they return to their units.
“The instructors all work very hard trying to teach us all they know and we are very happy with the instructors,” said Sgt. Aman Allah, with the 215th Corps at RCBS. “All of us are very, very grateful. I am confident, I learned a lot over the past months and am now ready to not only serve my country, but when I go back to my unit, I will teach my fellow Afghan soldiers what I learned from RCBS.”