CSTC-A Public Affairs
by Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Surrounded by Afghan National Police, the U.S. Army staff sergeant moved the water bottle caps around in the dirt, as if on a checker board. But, there was no board, and this was no game; it was training.
With different obstacles facing the trainers at Forward Operating Base Scorpion, unconventional methods of training are common. The language barrier may seem to limit the training, but the trainers and mentors are committed to mission execution, no matter what the means.
Army Staff Sgt. James Parks, an ANP police mentor team member from Buffalo, N.Y., uses the bottle caps to demonstrate a wedge formation, a type of patrolling technique. That day, his group was working on the “rush and roll,” the “low crawl” and other basic combat reactions under fire. This is typically training done by soldiers; however, due to the counterinsurgency environment, the ANP need these skills to survive and defeat the enemy.
“We train them in basic combat skills so they can stay alive out there,” Parks said. “It seems basic to us, but it’s stuff that they just don’t know to do when there is enemy contact.”
The majority of the training at the Regional Training Center in Kandahar is Afghan-led, but the three American and three coalition mentors work with ANP commanders and trainers to coach and advise the new recruits on basic combat skills.
“The language barrier is the biggest obstacle we face,” Parks said.
Just like the bottle caps, the U.S. mentor team used colored blocks to demonstrate how to clear a building. They assigned colored blocks to each ANP on the clearing team and set corresponding colored blocks on the inside of the building. That way, the police would know by looking at the colored blocks where they needed to position themselves once inside the building.
Once the ANP finish the eight-week course at the RTC, they are sent out to districts in southern Afghanistan. Once in the field, the mentoring doesn’t stop.
The Regional Police Advisory Command-South, headquartered at FOB Scorpion, acts as a command post for several police mentor teams spread out through the southern districts of Afghanistan. Nearly 10,000 ANP officers currently work in the field, and the PMTs travel from district to district to train, advise and mentor the police.
Col. John Cuddy, RPAC-S commander, oversees training for the RTC and the PMTs.
“The mentors and the PMTs are the front runners of our mission here,” he said. “It’s amazing what these men are doing with what they have.”
Cuddy said the PMTs will visit the district police after they have left the RTC and ensure they sustained those skills learned during training and are conducting their basic function as policemen, to serve and protect. The PMTs also ensure the police are getting paid and fed.
“If the ANP aren’t paid, they go AWOL (absent without leave). If they aren’t armed, they get killed in the night,” he said.
Cuddy said reports of real ANP progress come from the districts.
“We are getting feedback that the Taliban doesn’t recognize the ANP they fight now,” he said. “The ANP are starting to fight back. Before, they didn’t have the training in basic fighting or survival skills, so they would surrender or run.”
Afghan Brig. Gen. Nassurullah Zarifi, Kandahar RTC ANP commander, has more than 35 years of experience, including time with the Afghan National Army. He worked for 16 years as an instructor in the ANA before he was transferred to the RTC.
“We have 350 students here, but not enough instructors. The American and coalition instructors help us to educate our people,” he said. “While they are here, my instructors, deputies and myself work hard to ensure the students are trained properly and will do their job correctly when they leave the RTC to go to their communities.”
He said he receives positive feedback from the provinces about the police who graduated from the eight-week training program at the RTC.
“They are happy to have the new ANPs in their community,” Zarifi said. “This is a long process, not a short-term answer. We are working on the security for the future of Afghanistan.”