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Written by U.S. Army Sgt. Luther L. Boothe Jr.
Paktika Province, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Soldiers from Task Force Currahee observed Afghan National Army soldiers from 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps, as they provided indirect fire support Afghan ground forces June 12th-16th in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province.
The Afghan-led mission was the culmination of eight months of training led by Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Glory, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, TF Currahee.“In the beginning, the goals were sketchy … we did not know their ability, current training levels and the overall serviceability of the equipment,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Rittenhouse, the battalion master gunner with HHB, 4th Bn., 320th FAR, TF Glory, 4th BCT, 101st Airborne Div., TF Currahee, and native of Wilkes-Barre, PA.
After a trip to Kabul to learn and familiarize themselves with the ANA artillery weaponry, the TF Currahee Soldiers returned with clear training goals.
“Once we started training the ANA artillery battery, we knew we could teach them to a level of proficiency that would allow them to operate their own weapon systems with confidence and efficiency so they could support their own ground forces,” said Rittenhouse.
The ANA soldiers learned quickly.
“The progress the battery has made overall since beginning training in late November has been exponential,” said U.S. Army Capt. Jason D. James, commander HHB, 4th Bn., 320th FAR, TF Glory. “They have never failed to impress and surprise the U.S. (advisers) when we have challenged them to get to the next level.”
The U.S. trainers have faced some challenges, but have remained committed to maximizing the training with their ANA counterparts.
Overcoming the language barrier was the first obstacle, said James.
“The NATO artillery terms do not translate well over into Dari, Pashtu, or Farsi,” said James. “This sometimes requires multiple explanations and use of creative thought to express a point and ensure they understand what the U.S. (advisers) are trying to get across to them — it can sometimes be a matter of life or death if misunderstood.”
Cultural differences were another obstacle the Afghan and U.S. soldiers learned to overcome.
“Our standards of discipline in the U.S. Army are much different than the Afghan army, so much patience is required when the U.S. (advisers) believe the ANA should be doing something more quickly and with purpose,” he said. “The U.S. (advisers) constantly reminded themselves that expectations must be clearly explained, as well, because the battery is not used to operating a firing unit that supports maneuver forces with indirect fire support.”
The lessons the ANA learned were invaluable, according to the ANA.
“We started from zero and at the foundation,” said ANA 1st Lt. Dawoosha Han, the battery commander with 4th Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corps. “Before the training started, no one knew anything about the field artillery battery, but now everyone in the Kandak knows and understands. Now, the brigade commander knows he has an artillery battery to support his maneuver elements on the battlefield.”
With the complete, the ANA artillery battery tested their skills while supporting Afghan soldiers from 6th Kandak, 2nd Bde., 203rd Corps, who were operating in the field.
“This mission was important in building confidence in the abilities within the battery and the ground forces it (supports),” said Rittenhouse. “It proved that the combined training is effective and valuable to the future of the ANA forces.”
“The operation they just executed emulated future combat operations for the ANA,” he said. “Field artillery is one of the most powerful weapons on the battlefield; with sustainment training, this unit can easily perform under their own control in the future.”
The results were positive.
“The ANA did extremely well,” said James. “From the movement to the firing point to the set up of the howitzers and the processing of the fire missions, they could not have performed any better.”
“The most impressive thing I noticed during this mission was the sense of pride the ANA had taken in their unit,” he said. “They want to be the best they can, their efforts proved this. We provided them with minimal guidance so we could see how they would do on their own; they took what they had and executed it with pride and ability … and accomplished their mission.”
“This is a testament that progress has been made,” said Rittenhouse. “Some believe that (Afghanistan) and our efforts here are a lost cause, but this mission has proven that we are making progress.”
The skill and proficiency of the ANA battery sends a clear message to their team, their trainers and to the people they support in Paktika Province.
“To the ANA ground forces of 2nd Brigade, 203rd Corp, it means having a ANA battery capable of supporting them with indirect fire support; it is a huge force multiplier,” said James. “To the people of Paktika, it means they can be proud of the progress the battery has made, and they can also have confidence that when the battery is employed properly the enemy who want to bring insecurity to the province will be beaten back by an ANA that is aggressive and backed by quick, accurate artillery fires.”
To the ANA battery, it means much more.
“When we started this class our plan was to be able to be successful without the support of our U.S. trainers,” said Han. “Now I know, we can support our unit without their assistance and have measures in place to continue to train each other so we can remain proficient over the long term.”
Topics101st Airborne Division, Afghan National Army, Afghanistan, Dari, Fort Campbell KY, Luther L. Boothe Jr., Paktika Province, Task Force Currahee, U.S. Army Soldiers
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