Advising ANA goes beyond combat roles
April 14, 2013
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - While many of the stories that make headlines today concerning the conflict in Afghanistan focus on the Afghan National Security Forces taking the lead in the fight against insurgent forces for the future of the nation, a small group of Afghan National Army soldiers are taking the lead on a different and equally important front: telling their own story to the Afghan people and the world.
In a tiny, crowded and cluttered office on Forward Operating Base Thunder, ANA Sgt. 1st Class Abdul Karim is sorting through photos on a laptop.
Karim, a nine-year veteran of the ANA and a camera team noncommissioned officer with 203rd "Thunder" Corps Public Affairs Office explains, "We want the people of Afghanistan to hear what we are doing, it is important that we send out the message to every part of the country."
The 203rd Corps public affairs noncommissioned officers are being advised by soldiers from the South Dakota Army National Guard's 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment to better understand the process of editing photos and video for release to local media outlets as a means of telling the ANA's story.
Spc. Ryan Scott, a public affairs specialist, 129th MPAD, is one of two public affairs soldiers advising the ANA public affairs noncommissioned officers.
"Our mission is to ensure the 203rd Corps PAOs are able to get their message out through video, photographs and their story telling skills," said Scott, a native of Gilroy, Calif.
The Guardsmen are helping the 203rd Corps PAO get their message out in different ways.
"We are not here to tell them how we do things, but show them how to use the tools they do have to get the job done," said Sgt. Jacqueline Fitzgerald, a broadcast noncommissioned officer, 129th MPAD.
With a 5-year-old digital camera and a pair of video cameras, the ANA public affairs noncommissioned officers submit their products to a local civilian media center for release to the public.
"The information that they take to the media center now is all raw or unedited video and photos," said Scott. "Our goal is to show them how to put that information into packages so they can put their voice in it."
To Karim and others in the PAO shop, having the Afghan people hear their voice is what is important.
"In the past, it has been the U.S. Army and other PAOs telling the Afghan Army's story," said Fitzgerald, a native of Hermosa, S.D., "Now, we're teaching them how to tell their story. I think its better coming from your neighbor instead of an outsider."
In addition to advising the ANA noncommissioned officers on how to better prepare their own products, the guardsmen are also ensuring the ANA soldiers are able to pass along their knowledge to their counterparts across Afghanistan.
With International Security Assistance Forces scaling back operations to meet the 2014 withdrawal deadline, the ANA public affairs soldiers are stepping into the void.
"Everyday we are getting better," said Shir "GQ" Muhammed, "it is important to show the Afghan people that we are doing it right."