'Vanguard' field artillery advisers orient ANA towards self sustainability
October 27, 2013
LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - U.S. Army field artillery advisers with 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery Regiment, established a declination station for Afghan National Army artillerymen with Field Artillery Battery, 4th Kandak, 4th Infantry Brigade, 203rd Corps, Oct. 24, in Logar Province.
The declination station, a wooden stand designed to mark a known point to orient and align the ANA D30 howitzer artillery pieces, will enable Afghan artillerymen to conduct independent operations as the U.S. advisers with 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, prepare to return to Fort Stewart, Ga., after a successful nine-month tour.
There is only one declination site on Forward Operating Base Shank, and the ANA soldiers were required to be escorted on to Shank every time they needed to use the declination site in order to ensure their aiming information was accurate.
"We are enabling them to run their own operations," said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Juan Lozano, the 1-76 FA Battalion, or Task Force Patriot, master gunner.
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Keldrick Keys, a fire direction noncommissioned officer, said their biggest accomplishment in the past nine months had been to help the ANA employ the weapons and fire more accurately on the enemy. He said they focused on getting the ANA to work as a section rather than as an individual, something they are doing now. "They have been working independently for a few months and can do the job without us," he said.
The declination site, which is identical to the one on Shank, was built by staff sergeants Ryan Barkey, from Yukon, Okla., a howitzer section chief; Joshua Kuhnert, of Pinckneyville, Ill., a fire direction chief; Christopher Ostrander, from Newport News, Va., also a fire direction chief; Sgt. Paul Hines, from Olla, La., a howitzer gunner; and Staff Sgt. Robert Weaver, from Killeen, Texas, the battalion's signal operations noncommissioned officer in charge, all with 1-76 FA.
The U.S. soldiers secured the station at the ANA gun line using hammers and stakes to ensure the known point used for orientation was visible.
The ANA soldiers successfully verified their aiming circle, an artillery aiming instrument, using three reference points, from the known location.
"This validates that it's accurate and they can apply it now," said Lozano, a San Antonio native.
ANA Staff Sgt. Asill Khan, the master gunner, said he didn't know anything before the U.S. advisers arrived. "When the Americans came I trained with the aiming circle and gun line and now I can do everything here," he said.
"I appreciate Sgt. Lozano's work, Sgt. Keys and the other guys, they work hard every day," Khan said. "They came here and trained us."
The Jalabad native has been serving in the ANA for three years and said it was his desire to be in the army and serve his country. "I want a prosperous country," he added. "I want to serve my people and my country."
Khan is committed to teach his soldiers everything he has learned and said he will train his soldiers every day and every week, even after the U.S. advisers are gone.
"It's time to go home," said Keys, a native of Meadville, Miss. "We had a good group of ANA soldiers that we worked with. They came in, they were motivated, they were willing to learn and that made our job easier. It was a great experience working with these guys."