GARDEZ, Afghanistan --
A Marine officer was among a team of Americans from Kabul-area posts who met with the newest Polish soldiers in country to ensure a smooth transition into their roles as mentors for the Afghans.
The team arrived in Gardez to deliver some insight as to what the Polish Operational Mentoring Liaison Team assigned to mentor with the 203rd Afghan National Army Corps may encounter during their tour in Afghanistan. The team also gave a broad perspective of the OMLT mission and relayed some functional boundaries to the OMLT soldiers.
Marine Lt. Col. Drew West, the International Security Assistance Force ANA/OMLT Liaison Team Leader opened discussions with the OMLT’s place and mission amongst the many coalition pieces in Operation Enduring Freedom and the global war on terror.
West and the other presenters shared their perspectives of how things are supposed to run, acknowledging that they don’t always go as planned.
“We’re trying to build Afghanistan and protect it at the same time – that’s a tough thing to do,” said West, a reserve Marine activated from Dublin, Ohio.
Other presenters suggested that the OMLT may have to accept that they may not be able to teach everything they know, but they can still have a positive impact.
Army 1st Lt. David Baxley, the transitional readiness assessment tool officer assigned to Task Force Phoenix, said that it may be reasonable for the OMLT to focus their efforts on mentoring the ANA Corps in a few particular areas, and expect the following OMLT to focus on additional areas. This, he said, will allow the ANA to grow and learn incrementally.
All the presenters stressed that the OMLT’s place in Afghanistan is significant to the Afghan National Security Force’s overall success.
West said OMLTs are meant to replace American embedded training teams and continue to mentor the ANA.
“Your impact on the environment in Afghanistan is more than you think.” said West.
The OMLT arrived in Afghanistan about two months ago, relieving the previous Polish soldiers who have since returned home. In that time, they have begun working with and mentoring the ANA soldiers. They have also learned about some of the challenges they face as a mentoring team.
The OMLT commander, Polish Army Lt. Col. Rafal Sznajderowics, said his team has already found a challenge in helping the ANA soldiers train for missions, because they are often assigned missions with limited time to prepare beforehand.
Despite these challenges, the OMLT was encouraged.
“What we have to do is help (the ANA) know that every time they go to the fight with their mentor – every time they fight – they’re going to win,” said West. “We have to build that confidence.”
The international security cooperation training officer for Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan, Polish Lt. Cmdr. Zbigniew Zachariasz, was the only Polish speaking member of the visiting team. He and the others of the visiting team assured the OMLT soldiers that while they may sometimes seem to be alone from support, headquarters personnel is always mindful of their mission and significance.
West quoted NATO in saying, “The OMLT program is the single greatest contribution that NATO’s ISAF mission can make towards developing the Afghan National Army.”
Sznajderowics said he hopes to see progress by the end of his team’s tour.