CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan --
CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan - Up until three weeks ago, Afghan National Army soldiers graduating basic training at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, would attend job training, head out to their respective units and fight the enemies of Afghanistan who have plagued this war-torn country for many years.
The soldiers learned to fight by following seasoned soldiers who had once fought shoulder to shoulder with Coalition forces.
May 23, however, marked a milestone when ANA 215th Corps’ newest Engineer Kandak, or battalion, graduated the ANA’s Regional Military Training Center’s (RMTC) Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) training. The training is designed to build on a soldier’s skillset learned during basic training.
The graduation was significant as it marked the first time ANA soldiers received combat training right after basic training and before being forward deployed in an operational environment. In the past, the need for soldiers at the battalions was too great to wait until RSOI training was complete, leaving the brigades no choice but to send soldiers through RSOI during lulls in fighting.
But now ANA numbers in Helmand province are at sustainable levels, said U.S. Marine Captain Ted Schroeder, the infantry branch officer-in-charge with Regional Corps Battle School (Southwest), which advises the RMTC in ANA soldier development.
The ANA Brigades are at a point where they can ensure soldiers are “better prepared” for combat and arrive to their unit ready to contribute to Afghanistan’s future, he said.
The RSOI training will continue to serve as a refresher for veteran ANA soldiers, and though there is no set date, RSOI will eventually become reset training for all units as part of a continuous cycle of deploy, dwell and reset.
This is how it will work: A 215th Corps unit will be forward deployed somewhere in Helmand province for nine months. Once they’re deployment is over, they will take one month of vacation. When they come back, they will spend two months taking accountability of their troops and executing RSOI.
The three-week RSOI training includes an Explosive Hazard Reduction Course, a Combat Lifesaver Course, a Small Arms Course, a Tactical Leaders Course for officers, a Small-unit Tactics Course for noncommissioned officers, a Small Weapons Course and a tactical vehicle Driver Course.
The training also includes a one-day class in law of war and communication classes, and then culminates with a field exercise that combines everything the soldiers learn.
Afghan National Army Sergeant Ewaz Ali, a soldier with the kandak, is happy to have received combat training in addition to the training for his job as an engineer. He said the time will come when he must pick up a rifle and fight.
“I feel like I’m fully prepared to do anything now,” said Ali. “If [engineers] have to travel anywhere to do our job and we get attacked, we will have the training to rely on and we will be okay.”
Ali said he’s had friends who have gone straight from basic training to combat. But, his friends, he said, were “fighting with Coalition forces, so they were learning and gaining experience at the same time.”
Schroeder, a Clifton, Idaho, native, said it is important that Afghans teach other Afghans. Currently, 25 ANA soldiers at RMTC either teach completely on their own without Coalition assistance, or are undergoing “train the trainer” certification.
The “train the trainer” method has become widely used in Afghanistan by Security Force Assistance personnel. Select ANA soldiers learn critical capabilities and then train others. It is an important strategy and one in which the success of the Afghan National Security Forces is dependent on as Coalition forces draw down in Afghanistan.
The instructors don’t stay for long periods of time, however, and aren’t assigned to RMTC. They are instead “on loan” from the four ANA brigades inside the 215th Corps.
“The brigades… send their best and brightest soldiers down here to teach other soldiers in the 215th Corps,” said Schroeder. “But, they don’t stay here long. Their chain of command wants them back because they are great soldiers and leaders. It’s not like our system where a [service member] gets assigned as an instructor for [about] three years at a school house and then moves on to his next duty station.”
Schroeder said he and other staff members at RCBS are working with RMTC leadership on ways to institute a long-term staff of Afghan instructors. He said the ANA soldiers “have to teach their own,” to build that trust within their own institution.