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Afghan NCOs gain experience, knowledge from Marines

By Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr. | | January 19, 2008

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Marines in eastern Afghanistan find marked levels of success by setting leadership examples for the Afghan National Army.

 Just 10 Marines and sailors with embedded training team 7-2 mentor the officers and senior noncommissioned officers of 3rd Kandak (Armored), 3rd Brigade, 201st ANA Corps.

 Those Afghan leaders have learned by watching Marine NCOs make decisions and handle matters that Afghan officers normally take care of, said Marine Lt. Col. James F. Werth, ETT officer in charge.

 Afghan Sgt. Maj. Shapoor Hamidi, the 3rd Kandak (Armored) sergeant major, said that before working with ETT 7-2, he and other soldiers within his kandak did not understand what it meant to be an NCO.

 “Nobody knew ... what is the responsibilities of the NCOs,” said Hamidi. “We have seen (American) officers and enlisted NCOs are working together. This change should come (to) the ANA.”

 Hamidi has spent the past six months being mentored by Marine 1st Sgt. Matthew S. Seamans, a Shorewood, Minn., native and the senior enlisted mentor with ETT 7-2.

 The Marine mentors said it has sometimes been a struggle to persuade the ANA officers to trust in their enlisted leaders, but they are witnessing a growth of confidence and leadership in the NCO ranks.

 “It has to be a mutual thing, because if the officers don’t accept (giving NCOs responsibility), it won’t happen,” Seamans said. “Given the opportunity, they respond. You ask an (ANA) NCO if he can do (a job), and he’ll say, ‘yeah, I can do it.’”

 Werth said his team has seen the Afghan NCOs excel in convoy planning, convoy operations, local security and patrolling, but he’d like to see the NCOs gain more leadership experience with garrison issues.

 “We haven’t arrived yet, but we’re making 1st downs. That’s what we’re doing,” Werth said, using a football analogy.

 The success the mentors are having is attributable to the Marine NCOs in ETT 7-2, according to Seamans. The team’s mentors have demonstrated their own leadership qualities. Seamans praised the ETT’s sergeants and staff NCOs who are mentoring the ANA soldiers.

 “Not just any NCO can do it. A guy’s got to bring a lot of confidence and maturity,” Seamans said.

 Marine Master Sgt. Scott M. Ingbretsen, a mentor with 1st Company, 3rd Kandak (Armored), at Forward Operating Base Keating, said he believes Afghan officers seeing him work has had a big effect in strengthening the role of Afghan staff NCOs.

 “They have stepped up. I think they were craving more recognition and not just more pay,” said Ingbretsen. “In this company, the staff NCOs do most of the tactical planning. The officers …trust the abilities of their staff NCOs.

 “Now the staff NCOs are taking it upon themselves to teach their soldiers,” added Ingbretsen. The ANA NCOs and staff NCOs are becoming mentors to subordinate Afghan soldiers.


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