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Posts Tagged ‘ANA’

An Afghan recruit studies literacy course material *

Afghan soldiers with literacy instruction materials **

In Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan Security Forces face ruthless and determined insurgents.

But they also face an almost unbelievable lack of literacy

As Col William Gerhard of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) points out, soldiers must be able to shoot, move, and communicate.  But in Afghanistan, these necessities are made even more difficult because only 14 percent of new recruits can read or write.  In fact, many cannot identify the letters in their name nor the serial number of their weapon…

But NTM-A is working to change that.  Their Afghan National Security Forces literacy program enables more effective training, serves as an important recruiting tool, and helps install the rule of law while reducing the impact of corruption.

Eventually, NTM-A hopes to raise the Afghan National Army and Police forces to full functional literacy, at the third-grade level.  But there’s a long, long way to go…

Bottom line:  Here are some Dari Flashcards we used in Afghanistan.  Imagine not being able to read either side of the card…

* Photo by TSgt Adrienne Brammer, USAF, from flickr
** Photo by SSgt Rachel Martinez, USAF, from flickr

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Afghan women line up to vote under Afghan National Police protection*

Workers take ballot boxes to a remote polling station in Panjshir Province **

Within hours, the polls will open for the 2010 Afghan Parliamentary elections

I supported the Afghan National Army and Police forces during the 2009 Afghan Presidential election and was relieved when the parliamentary elections (originally scheduled for May) were postponed.

So with apologies to Clint Eastwood, here’s my take on the upcoming elections…

The good:  People will vote.  It’s obvious, but we tend to forget that an election in a country like Afghanistan is a Big Deal.  Are Afghans racked by war?   Duh.  Illiterate?  Almost entirely.  Discriminatory?  Mostly…especially against women.   But despite all that, Afghans will turn out to vote tomorrow, choosing their representatives on a ballot (like this) with candidate icons and pictures.   And 405 of the 2,577 candidates will be women.

The bad:  There will be fraud.  With fake voter registration cards going for only 23 cents apiece, it might be more accurate to say there will be LOTS of fraud.  But there is some silver lining:  It shouldn’t be as bad as the 2009 Presidential elections, and both Afghans and the International Community are watching closely, so it should get better over time.

The ugly:  As Joshua Faust points out, there will be blood.  According to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, Afghanistan has deployed 52,000 Afghan National Police and 63,000 Afghan National Army personnel across the country to provide election security.  Additionally, NATO forces stand ready to provide emergency security, medical and logistical support.  But voters are a VERY lucrative target for the insurgents, and the Taliban is both ruthless and effective…

Bottom line: For good, bad, or ugly, Afghans will choose their representatives tomorrow.  Like Rat, in Stephan Pastis’ comic Pearls Before Swine, I expect the best…

* Photo by Tyler Hicks, of the New York Times

** Photo by Shah Marai, of Agence France-Presse – Getty Images

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IT2 Gonzalez

IT2 Gonzalez, gathering gear for a support mission*

IT1 Beiser

IT1 Beiser and children during a volunteer mission**

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a GREAT team of Coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in my organization.  But three have really stood out recently:

IT2 Gonzalez is a communications technician working in my Current Operations section.  He is directly responsible for providing mobile comm support for LTG Caldwell, the Commander of NTM-A and CSTC-A.

Because of his professionalism and expertise, IT2 Gonzalez was my #1 select to provide communications support to LTG Caldwell during his recent visits to forward operating bases in Afghanistan.  He flew ahead of the General and coordinated classified and unclassified telephone and network services with each host site.  He was recognized by the Command Sergeant Major for his ability to anticipate LTG Caldwell’s every communications need.

IT1 Beiser is my Afghan National Army (ANA) Tactical Communications Fielding NCO. In this job, he helps the ANA field the correct number and type of radios to the correct units, ensuring ANA Commanders have the means to effectively command their units in combat.  IT1 Beiser also advises an Afghan Colonel, providing valuable input into ANA radio equipment, supply, and storage plans.

IT1 Beiser assists the ANA Communications Support Unit (CSU) too, advising generator mechanics, radio maintainers and operators, and even First Sergeants within the unit.  While working with the CSU, he’s driven vehicles and been entrusted with Vehicle Commander and Convoy Commander duties as well.

Finally, Capt Grocki is my Afghan National Police (ANP) Budget and Program Support Planner here at Camp Eggers.  As my ANP Contracting Officer Representative, he manages $221M in sales of US communications equipment and services, and ensures 13 multi-million dollar ANP comm support contracts remain in scope and on schedule.

Capt Grocki also worked closely with the Kabul Regional Contracting Center, shepherding four contracts through technical evaluation and contract award.  He developed Quality Assurance plans for each contract and ensured Technical Oversight Representatives were assigned to conduct regular inspections of contractor performance.

Bottom line: IT2 Gonzalez, IT1 Beiser, and Capt Grocki are great Americans, making great things happen in Afghanistan.  I’m honored to serve with them here.

* Photo by LCDR Tony Saxon, USN.
** Photo by Lt Col Fred Kelsey, USAF.

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Afghan Policeman

ANP Policemen in Kunar province*

ANA Commandos

ANA Commandos in Khandahar**

There was a great article by C.J. Chivers in the NY Times earlier this week about the Afghan National Security Forces operating in Marjah.

It’s a great article NOT because it’s got great news.  On the contrary.  It’s great because transparency about ANA and ANP deficiencies is the first step to fixing them.  Some excerpts:

Fundamental to plans for undermining the insurgency is to set up Afghan security forces — robust, competent, honest, well equipped and well led. If such forces can be created, then the plan is to hand them responsibility for the security achieved by the Army and Marines, allowing for an American withdrawal.

But the bad reputation of the Afghan police forces, in particular, along with the spotty performance of Afghan forces in Marja, suggest that the work and the spending of billions of American dollars to date had not achieved anything like the desired effects.

The Afghans in the meeting with the colonels were blunt: ‘We’re with you. We want to help you build. We will support you. But if you bring in the cops, we will fight you till death.’

Afghan soldiers … looted the 84-booth Semitay Bazaar immediately after the Marines swept through and secured it. Then the Afghan soldiers refused to stand post in defensive bunkers, or to fill sandbags as the Americans, sometimes under fire, hardened their joint outpost. Instead, they spent much of their time walking in the bazaar, smoking hashish.

Bottom line:  C.J. Chivers describes the next phase of the Marjah operation perfectly:  “It is a race for Afghan government competence and a contest for respect and for trust, in a place where all are in short supply.”

* Photo by Liu Jin, from Foreign Policy.
** Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery.

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NATO Flag

Polish soldiers raise the NATO flag at Camp Eggers*

Guidon

LTG Caldwell receives the Command guidon**

Yesterday marked 100 days since the formal activation of NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan.

The first 100 days have been pretty amazing…from Washington DC to London to Brussels to a dusty town in Helmand Province, everyone is working together to enable accountable Afghan-led security.  And Afghan and Coalition communicators are working together to connect the all the organizations involved.

Here are just a few highlights. from a comm perspective:

  • We expanded the enduring comm infrastructure of the ANP, installing radio systems at ten ANP district headquarters, dozens of radio repeaters throughout Afghanistan, and over 1000 vehicle radios supporting the ANP.
  • Working entirely on their own, Ministry of the Interior communicators installed new antennas and towers, improving the ANP’s long-range communication capability.
  • The ANA deployable comm unit accomplished their first-ever operational deployments…supporting Afghan Special Operations Forces during an insurgent attack in Kabul and operations in Helmand
  • The ANA senior communicator took an extremely professional response to radio shortage, cross-leveling radios between Corps, converting radios when necessary, and purchasing gap-filler radios on their own.
  • The ANA graduated their first five radio repair instructors ever…these five soldiers went on to lead the first-ever radio maintenance course taught by ANA instructors!
  • We worked with Microsoft to produce full-Dari versions of Office and SharePoint software…though Afghans can type using a Dari font, the menus and help screens of our current software all in English.
  • We installed the first military BlackBerry server in Afghanistan, built a deployable comm capability for the NTM-A commander, and doubled the size of our Coalition classified network.
  • We implemented new network permissions, dramatically increasing transparency about NTM-A and the Afghan National Security Forces.

Bottom line:  It’s been a wild ride already, and there’s LOTS more to come!

* Photo by MCC F. Julian Carroll, USN, from Defense Imagery.

** Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery.

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ANP Exercise

A training exercise at the Afghan National Police Academy

ANA graduates

New graduates at the Kabul Military Training Center*

For those of us who serve in NATO Training Mission and Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, training and transition are our middle names.

Training is what we do.   We train new soldiers and police, generating capable security forces.  We train staff members within the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior, developing ministerial systems.  And we train communicators, medics, logisticians and other specialists, developing the enduring institutions and skills required to sustain the ANA and ANP.

Transition is why we do it.  We provide a ladder, and the Afghans climb it: On the ground floor, we have to do things for Afghans.  Part way up, they’re doing things with us.  And towards the top, they can do things by themselves.  At the top, we transition to Afghan-led security…self-reliant and professionally-led forces with accountable and effective Afghan Ministries.

Bottom line:  Our new mission statement sums it all up nicely:

NTM-A and CSTC-A, in coordination with key stakeholders, generates and sustains the Afghan National Security forces, develops leaders and establishes enduring institutional capacity in order to enable accountable Afghan-led security.

* Photo by SSgt Larry E. Reid Jr., USAF, from Defense Imagery.

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Commando patch

Comm Support Unit adviser, proudly wearing the ANA Commando patch*

ANP Antenna

ANP radio antenna, supporting a District Headquarters in Wardak Province**

I’ve got a GREAT team of Coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in my organization; here are three that really stood out recently:

Senior Airman Taylor is a technician working in my Operations  section, connecting NTM-A and CSTC-A.  He is responsible for the installation, operation and maintenance of the classified Coalition network (called Afghanistan Mission Network, or AMN) at Camp Eggers – 555 users, 360 computers, 25 printers, and 50 computer-based phones…growing every day.

Recently, SrA Taylor provided above-and-beyond comm support to the Joint Planning Group charged to relook the Command’s mission and way-ahead.  This has been an incredibly high-visibility effort, involving multiple meetings with LTG Caldwell, the NTM-A Commander and CSTC-A Commanding General.  SrA Taylor engineered and implemented AMN connectivity for the group despite starting with ZERO comm infrastructure in their designated meeting space.  He connected over twenty senior officers with secure comms and enabled in-depth analysis across fourteen different staff sections, allowing the group to chart the way forward for the Command.

Electronics Technician First Class Peterson works in my Afghan National Army Communications section, supporting ANA command and control.  He serves as the satellite communications trainer/adviser for the ANA Communications Support Unit (CSU).  As an adviser, ET1 Peterson helped the CSU with their first operational deployment, ever.  I’ve written about this deployment before, but the short story is until ET1 Peterson and the CSU arrived, the Commando Brigade Headquarters had only radio communications.  Only two days into the deployment, Commando leaders had video, voice, and data comms with the National Military Command Center,  allowing them to effectively respond to the 18 January insurgent attacks in Kabul.  And today, the Commandos are participating in major combat operations in and around Marjah, in central Helmand.

Additionally, ET1 Peterson provides direct support for the American Forces Network (AFN) television broadcast  system on Camp Eggers.  He helped replace cable and perform maintenance on the Camp Eggers AFN system.  In the process, he isolated and fixed an intermittent problem with AFN reception affecting our headquarters building.  These trouble prevention and troubleshooting skills earned the personal recognition of LTG Caldwell.

Last but certainly not least, Lieutenant Commander Stewart serves as the Radio Fielding Branch Chief in my Afghan National Police Comms section.  He’s driving a $10 million plan to install over 400 VHF radio repeaters throughout Afghanistan, enhancing the tactical command and control capabilities of the ANP.  He developed a strategy to use existing commercial cell phone towers, saving significant time and money compared to building towers from scratch.  LCDR Stewart is also finishing up a UHF radio system installation here in Kabul.  This is a trunked system which allows almost unlimited talk groups…which means local police, fire fighters, medical providers and other first responders in the capital can use their radios simultaneously, without stepping on each other’s voices, even during a major crisis.  He has already started operational testing; I expect the the system will soon be functioning as designed for more than 3,700 users.

Finally, LCDR Stewart has been directly responsible for working with Afghan Ministry of the Interior officers to field more than 300 vital pieces of radio equipment for Afghan Gendarmerie Force units participating in Operation Moshtarak near Marjah.  Afghan and Coalition forces are currently clearing the area of insurgents; LCDR Stewart’s radios will help Afghan police forces hold the line against an insurgent return, providing the Afghan government time and space to build capability within the area.

Bottom line:  I offer SrA Taylor, ET1 Peterson, and LCDR Stewart as shining examples of the best qualities of this Command – agile and adaptive, culturally respectful, and innovative.  It is my pleasure and my honor to serve with them here.

* Photo by ET1 David Peterson.

** Photo by ITC Greg Laskowski.

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