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Afghan, US Army NCO's share experience at Bagram conference

December 3, 2012

By Sgt. Roland Hale

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (December 2, 2012) -- Five staff sergeants major from the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps visited Bagram Airfield Dec. 2 for a brief conference with their counterparts from the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-1.

Hosted by CJTF-1 and Regional Command -- East's senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Charles V. Sasser Jr., the senior Afghan NCO's visited Bagram to discuss the challenges facing the ANA's NCO corps and to compare notes with their coalition peers.

A rapidly growing military faced with increasing responsibility, the ANA is in need of strong enlisted leadership. That is something they already have, said Sasser.

"I can tell you right now that they have strong sergeants major and NCO's," said Sasser. "The important thing is that they are empowered and respected. They have got to show their value through hard work."

The 201st Corps, which is responsible for ANA operations across eastern Afghanistan, is making headway in that regard.

"The 201st Corps was the first corps to have their commander sign a document outlining the responsibilities of the NCO. All they have to do is get it out to the force," said Sasser.

The document, signed in November, has recently spread to the 203rd Corps and other ANA corps in both southern and northern Afghanistan.

"Everyone knows we're the strongest army in the world. Some know why, some don't," said Sasser. "The reason why is because of our NCO's, their duties and responsibilities that are outlined in doctrine and on top of that, the individual relationships they make with their commanders."

ANA Command Sgt. Maj. Said Abotaleb Sadat serves as the 201st Corps' senior enlisted advisor and has been in the ANA for 10 years.

"This was a great conference, an important opportunity to get experience from our American partners," said Sadat.

Discussing the similarities of their two militaries and of their responsibilities, Sadat and his sergeants major talked about the challenges of training soldiers, supplying units and finding qualified soldiers for special assignments.

Sadat also addressed insider threats, expressing his concern for the "blue-on-green" attacks that have plagued units in eastern Afghanistan lately.

"Coalition soldiers are our brothers. We have the same target -- fighting against the enemies of Afghanistan," said Sadat. "Shoulder to shoulder, we will work to remove the insider threats. As a sergeant major, I take care of my soldiers and the coalition soldiers too."

"I sit down with my sergeants major and NCO's and we make sure that we tell our soldiers this," he said.

Also in attendance at the conference was Command Sgt. Maj. Hadi Shaiq, who at the age of 24 is possibly the ANA's youngest sergeant major. Shaiq joined the Army four years ago, and after quickly moving up the ranks through performance-based promotions, is the senior enlisted advisor of the 201st Corps intelligence section.

A young NCO in a relatively young NCO corps, Shaiq said the conference was a great learning opportunity and hopes to take new information back to his own section.

"Comparing the two systems, our army has copied many of the U.S. Army's ways," he said. "It is good to talk with our American counterparts and gain as much as experience from them as we can."

As Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan continue to graduate from a state of partnered operations and conduct more independent missions on their own, coordination between senior NCO's of the U.S. and Afghan armies will continue.

The coalition's new weapon, security force advisory and assistance teams, have already begun to arrive in the region and are charged with providing knowledge and guidance to fully capable Afghan units, their NCO corps included.

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