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ANA shoots to sustainable success down range

Email   Print   Share By Maj. Steven Miller, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div. PAO
March 21, 2013 | News
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Lt. Col. Monte Rone observes as an Afghan army radio operator transmits orders from their brigade commander to the various combat enablers that participated in a brigade live-fire exercise, March 5, in Mehter Lam. The exercise demonstrated the capabilities of the ANA to the people of Laghman province. Photos by Maj. Steven Miller, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
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Afghan National Army artillerymen prepare to fire a D30 Howitzer during a live fire exercise and demonstration in Mehter Lam, March 5. The firing of artillery was part of a much larger event that included Afghan soldiers calling in close-combat air, reacting to indirect fire on their FOB and treating casualties.
MEHTER LAM, Afghanistan - Something remarkable was happening on Forward Operationg Base Mehter Lam as attack helicopters circled overhead and D30 artillery cannons fired and rounds impacted on the side of a mountain outside the capital of Laghman province. Afghan National Army Soldiers were on tactical radios controlling it all.

The 1st brigade of the 201st ANA Corps conducted the day-long live exercise that featured firing artillery, calling in close-combat air support, responding to an improvised explosive device and treating multiple casualties on the FOB.

Not only was the event a training exercise, it demonstrated what is quickly becoming a strength of the ANA: the ability to use artillery effectively, which is critical to defeating the insurgency and securing the country.

The provincial governor, chief of police, other local dignitaries and several members of the media watched as the Afghan Soldiers conducted their tasks. Dr. Fazlullah Mujadidi, the governor of Laghman province, made note of the increased capacity of the brigade.

“This exercise conducted by the ANA was really spectacular. It really showed the ANAs hidden capabilities,” Mujadidi said.

Though the ANA executed all the calls for fire and fired the guns, Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood have conducted the training over the last four months. The Long Knife Brigade assumed the role of Security Force Assistance Brigade in November and has advised the ANA and other elements of the Afghan National Security Forces since.

As the first SFAB in the Army, the brigade’s mission is not to lead combat operations, but to coach and advise Afghan counterparts as they work together to find Afghan-sustainable solutions to security challenges and combat operations.

“Training for the exercise began more than a month ago and consisted of numerous joint planning sessions and rehearsals between (advise and assist teams from 4th BCT,1st Cav.) and our ANSF partners,” said Lt. Col. Monte Rone, the commander of 2nd Squadron,12th Cavalry.

This is a different role and requires a different mindset. In Regional Command-East, the ANA is the area of operations owner and the coalition forces support by providing combat enablers to the ANSF.

The strength of the SFAB lies in its officers and senior noncommissioned officers who bring tremendous knowledge and experience to the ANSF. Without the requirement to execute combat operations, all of the organization’s energy is focused on training and advising Afghan counterparts. These one-on-one relationships create strong bonds that enhance the training experience.

The SFAB is a much smaller formation than a traditional Army brigade – about one-third the size of a standard heavy brigade combat team. This reduced size serves as a forcing function to keep the U.S. Soldiers from reaching beyond

their mission of advising. This forces the Afghans to lead, and it is working.

Members of the ANA now realize they have the equipment necessary to secure their country, although much has been written about their lack of combat enablers; things like logistic, medical, air, and artillery support.

This exercise in Mehter Lam clearly shows the day will be here soon when the ANA will not need the coalition to provide those enablers.

Every element of the fire missions was carried out by Afghan Soldiers. Afghan medics treated and evacuated the mock casualties. All the logistics were handled through the Afghan army.

The Afghan air force is still in its infancy. The helicopters in the exercise were AH-64 Apache helicopters flown by U.S. Army pilots. This fact does not detract from the success because the Afghan Soldiers are being trained, and are developing confidence in close combat air support procedures and will be prepared when the Afghan air force is fully developed.

Furthermore, just as with U.S. Soldiers, the benefit of training how to coordinate and manage close-combat air support instills confidence .

Afghan Soldiers have responded well to the training challenges they've been presented. Unlike the U.S. military training model in which Soldiers go away to a school for a period of time to learn a skill, the Afghans are in training and in combat at the same time and every day presents the opportunity for real-world practical exercise.

“Together, planners developed a fictitious react to indirect-fire scenario using scripted injects to drive the exercise. Nothing was taken for granted, to include ensuring security was in place on the FOB,” Rone said.

While challenges remain for the Afghan National Army and the rest of the Afghan National Security Forces, the combined live-fire exercise at Mehter Lam proves that the Afghan’s are capable of securing their country and every day their confidence grows. This fact is not lost on Mujadidi, as he reflected on the exercise and demonstration that ANA put on in his capitol city.

“This event showed that Afghan security forces are strong enough,” he said, “and able to take over the security responsibilities of the entire country.”
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