Written by Sgt. 1st Class Peter Mayes
101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (AA) Public Affairs
Kabul, Afghanistan – Soldiers with the 101st Special Troops Battalion got a closer look at the Afghan National Army soldiers they will be mentoring for their upcoming mission at Forward Operating Base Ghardez.
The ANA soldiers, assigned to the 203rd Combat Logistics Battalion, were completing their pre-validation training in preparation for their mission at the FOB. The “Sustainers” will provide mentorship and training for the battalion as part of their partnership with the Afghan army.
“We will suggest to them what to do in certain situations, but we will never tell them what to do,” said Maj. Robert Carpena, senior mentor, 101st Special Troops Bn., 101st Sus. Bde. “We want to establish a relationship with the battalion chain of command, and the trust we create with them will produce dividends later on.”
The ANA Soldiers go through their pre-validation training with the International Assistance Security Forces. The soldiers were learning how to establish both a tactical area and a forward logistics element, and basic drills such as reacting to improvised explosive devices and ambushes.
Carpena and soldiers from the battalion spent time observing the training and will be working with the ANA on the many aspects of combat operations once the training is complete and everyone is at their final duty station.
“We want to ensure that they have the equipment and skills necessary to function,” he said. “The number one priority is to get the equipment and personnel.”
The Sustainers are conducting a similar mentorship program with the ANA at Forward Operating Base Gamberi. According to Staff Sgt. Thomas Williamson, senior maintenance mentor, 101st Special Troops Bn., 101st Sus. Bde., the biggest concern right now is establishing the relationship with the ANA.
“It’s basically building a trust relationship where if they come to me and say we have this problem, we can find an end result for them,” he said.
Williamson said the ANA soldiers are conducting driver training, and wrecker and recovery operation in preparation for the drive to Ghardez. He also said the key to success for the ANA is ensuring that the commanders are sharing knowledge with their soldiers.
“They have to share that knowledge. The officers are not going to be the ones in that convoy wrecker with them, so if the soldiers are not getting the proper training because the officers are holding the keys, they won’t be sufficient enough when it comes time to actually recover that vehicle if an improvised explosive device or something happens,” he said.
Carpena said this is the first time he has led a mentorship training effort with the Afghan forces. He also praised ANA Soldiers on their ability to learn the tasking given them.
“They’re quick learners. They’ve never done something like this before, but once you show them how to do it, they pick it up quickly,” he said. “I don’t see any issues with them in the near future to stand up an operation by themselves.”