Story by U.S. Army Spc. Philip Steiner
Regional Command East
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Feb. 6, 2013) – As U.S. Soldiers at the Operation Command Center-Region, or OCCR, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi continue to mentor their counterparts in the Afghan National Security Forces, their roles are starting to change.
The OCC-R is the hub where operational information from different branches of the ANSF gets processed. Representatives from the Afghan National Army, the Afghan Uniformed Police and the Afghan Local Police work in the OCC-R to ensure that all agencies know what the others are doing in the battle space.
The 201st Corps of the ANA recently completed a training course designed to help the soldiers perform their duties in the OCC-R. Officers and non-commissioned officers alike attended the course to prepare themselves for the soon-coming U.S. handover to the ANSF.
Unlike in earlier training courses, the Afghan Uniform Police and the Afghan National Army worked together to lead the class, and young Afghan lieutenants served as the primary instructors.
“This relationship [between the AUP and ANA] was very good. It was good good to bring all the parts together, because in the future they will share the information, and from learning together they know how to work together,” said Afghan 2nd Lt. Aman Allah, an OCC-R fire officer and one of the primary instructors for this course. “In the battle field they will help each other. This helps better the relationship between all the AUP and ANA.”
Some Afghan lieutenants have now demonstrated a strength beyond just military and police tactics: teaching.
“The lieutenant we had in the class as an instructor was great; he did a great job, excellent job when he was teaching,” said Lt. Col. Eik Mohammed, an AUP operations officer in OCC-R, who was the lead instructor at Gamberi was trained by U.S. forces during the beginning stages of this course.
“We should always select the young officers as instructors, they will do a great job,” he said.
The course was designed to teach ANA and AUP students many different skills related to the OCC-R and daily operations.
“We had OCC system operations and map reading, basic computer skills, then intelligence,” said Allah. “I was pretty sure of myself to be able to teach map reading, so I was really eager to be able to teach this and will be ready to teach this in the future.”
Although Allah is confident in his ability to share what he has learned, this is not the case with some of the students coming through the course.
“This is a very important class because most of the people we had come through the class didn’t know how to read a map or collect information and come up with a decision. Now everyone knows how to do it,” said Allah.
As a previous field commander himself, Mohammed quickly made clear the practical application and value of having this knowledge for the fire officers on the ground.
“They learned the map reading to be able to provide very good and accurate information to the commander, especially those areas that the commander is preparing to move in an operation,” said Mohammed. “Provide right information about the insurgents and the ANSF forces and the commander will be able to make the right decision.”
Not only will this course be beneficial for the students who attended, but also for those soldiers who will be working with these new graduates.
“It was a very good course that we attended, very beneficial for us,” said 2nd Lt. Abdul Roulf, a fire officer at the Kapisa provincial operations command center. “We learned a lot of information in this course. Everything we have learned, we will share when we go back to our units.”
This is not the last class for the OCC-R at FOB Gamberi. Some of the students will be back very shortly, but on the opposite side of the desk.
“During this class, we selected five current students to come back and teach and be good teachers in the future,” said Mohammed.
When U.S. troops began advising the Afghan forces, a common phrase heard was shona-ba-shona. In English, this translates to “shoulder-by-shoulder,” signifying cooperation between the two militaries. After courses like this one, however, the phrase is being applied more to the Afghans themselves.
Three graduates of the operation command center foundation course hold up their certificates after the ceremony at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, on Jan.1, 2013. These are just a few of the twenty-one student class that participated in the twenty-one day long training, covering topics from map reading and grid locations to computer work and intelligence.(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Philip Steiner)