First Afghan Army Battalion Finishes Training

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 23, 2002 -- The first battalion of the Afghan National Army graduated from training today at the Afghan Military Academy.

Afghan and coalition leaders see the Afghan National Army as a stabilizing influence in the war-torn country. The army will be the instrument of the national government and will be trained and equipped to defeat any direct challenge.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Defense Minister Mohammad Fahim, and Combined Joint Task Force-180 Commander Army Gen. Dan McNeill attended the graduation exercises.

The 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, from Fort Bragg, N.C., trained the 300-man Afghan battalion. More than 300 trainers and staff helped in the process.

Armed forces in Afghanistan previously were under the control of ethnic or geographic groups. One of the main challenges was overcoming language barriers, according to U.S. Central Command spokesman Marine Gunnery Sgt. Charles Portman. Interpreters translated course materials from English to Dari and Pashtu.

Another challenge was getting the groups to work together. "The Afghan National Army is a mix of all ethnic groups in the country," said Army Sgt. Don Dees, a U.S. spokesman at the academy. "Bringing the guys together to work hand-in- hand with each other in National Army was challenging."

Training started with individual infantry skills and progressed to small-unit operations -- fire teams, squads, platoons and so forth. Trainers worked to build esprit de corps in the unit rather than in any ethnic group.

The 10-week course trained all members of the battalion. The Special Forces soldiers had leadership courses for the battalion officers and NCOs. The course of instruction emphasizes that the Afghan army is under civilian control and that the officers and NCOs answer to the national government.

The French have already started training a second battalion of the Afghan force and U.S. trainers will begin training a third battalion on July 27.

The first battalion will be in garrison in Kabul, Combined Joint Task Force-180 officials said. "It's important to stress that mission employment of this battalion is all under the command and control of the Afghan Ministry of Defense," Dees said. The battalion will be stationed in Kabul so it will be centrally located in the event it is needed to provide security.