• The 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps soldiers, alongside a mentor from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, recoil from the pop of a fired 60mm mortar round during a live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during their final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014. The Afghan National Army are much better equipped to secure their country during the upcoming presidential elections with the skills and knowledge to engage their enemies with indirect fire. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    The 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps soldiers, alongside a mentor from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, recoil from the pop of a fired 60mm mortar round during a live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan...

  • Spc. Anthony Barajas helps 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army soldiers prepare 60mm mortar rounds for their culminating day of training on the weapon system, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. With the skills and knowledge to engage their enemies with indirect fire, the Afghan National Army are much better equipped to secure their country for the upcoming presidential elections. Barajas, from Los Angeles, serves as a mortarman with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    Spc. Anthony Barajas helps 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army soldiers prepare 60mm mortar rounds for their culminating day of training on the weapon system, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. With the skills and...

  • Staff Sgt. David Flores gives one last safety briefing to his students in 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, to kick of the final day of their month-long 60mm mortar system training course, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. Flores serves as a mortar system lead trainer with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, from Agana Heights, Guam. The ability to effectively engage the enemies of Afghanistan with indirect mortar fire will serve the Afghan National Army when securing their country during the upcoming presidential elections. The 2nd Battalion is a part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    Staff Sgt. David Flores gives one last safety briefing to his students in 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, to kick of the final day of their month-long 60mm mortar system training course, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi...

  • An Afghan soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, practices setting up the 60mm mortar system in preparation for the culminating live-fire exercise for their month-long mortar training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. Effective indirect fire is an essential part to modern military operations and will serve the Afghan National Army well during the upcoming presidential elections.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    An Afghan soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, practices setting up the 60mm mortar system in preparation for the culminating live-fire exercise for their month-long mortar training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base...

  • A group of Afghan soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, look to their target off in the distance to gauge the angle for their 60mm mortars while preparing for the culminating live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2014. The soldiers have trained on the system for over a month with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. As the election season comes close, modern military skills like this will give the Afghan National Army a major advantage over any enemies of Afghanistan. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    A group of Afghan soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, look to their target off in the distance to gauge the angle for their 60mm mortars while preparing for the culminating live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi...

  • A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, practices the proper technique for dropping a round into a 60mm mortar tube while getting ready for the final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. After working with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, for over a month to learn the weapon system, he and his colleagues have gained in depth knowledge of indirect mortar fires going into the presidential elections, which will give them an edge in the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, practices the proper technique for dropping a round into a 60mm mortar tube while getting ready for the final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan...

  • Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, compete with each other in speed drills setting up their 60mm mortar systems, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during their final day of training with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. The students were tested on this and many other mortar skills to become proficient with the systems while preparing to help secure the Afghan presidential elections coming up in just a few months. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, compete with each other in speed drills setting up their 60mm mortar systems, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during their final day of training with 2nd...

  • A 60mm mortar team with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, stands ready to begin a speed drill of setting up the tube and laying it on target in as short a time as possible on their final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. Being able to accurately lay onto a target and do it quickly are skills that will give them an advantage in securing the Afghan people against the enemies of Afghanistan during the upcoming presidential elections.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    A 60mm mortar team with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, stands ready to begin a speed drill of setting up the tube and laying it on target in as short a time as possible on their final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating...

  • Soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, compete in a speed drill to see how fast they can set up their 60mm mortar system and get it laid onto a target, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. The speed drill happened during the Afghan National Army soldier's final day of training on the mortar system with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. The Afghan National Army then tested the accuracy of their targeting with a live-fire exercise meant to show how the weapon performs during a real battle, experience that will aid the soldiers in securing against the enemies of Afghanistan during the approaching presidential elections. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    Soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, compete in a speed drill to see how fast they can set up their 60mm mortar system and get it laid onto a target, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan. The speed drill...

  • A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, drops a 60mm mortar round down the tube to launch down range, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during the Afghan National Army's cumulative training exercise with 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. Effective indirect fire is an essential part to modern military operations and will serve the Afghan National Army well during the upcoming presidential elections. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, drops a 60mm mortar round down the tube to launch down range, Jan. 8, 2014, at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during the Afghan National Army's cumulative training exercise...

  • Soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, alongside their mentors in 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, employ 60mm mortar systems during the cumulative live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during their final day of training, Jan. 8, 2014. The 2nd Battalion helped train the Afghan National Army on the weapon giving them the indirect fire skills needed to secure their country against its enemies during the upcoming presidential elections and beyond. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    Soldiers with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, alongside their mentors in 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, employ 60mm mortar systems during the cumulative live-fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, during...

  • A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, prepares a 60mm mortar round for firing just outside Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2014, during the culminating exercise of a month-long class the soldiers took on the weapon system. Mortarmen from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, taught the course. Having the skills to effectively employ indirect fire on the enemy will serve the Afghan National Army in protecting the Afghan people during the upcoming election season. The 2nd Battalion is a part of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Task Force Patriot.

    Afghan mortarmen test their mettle

    A soldier with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, prepares a 60mm mortar round for firing just outside Forward Operating Base Gamberi, Afghanistan, Jan. 8, 2014, during the culminating exercise of a month-long class the soldiers took on the...

LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Jan. 13, 2014) -- It may be small, but a 60mm mortar round has a blast radius of over 20 meters and can be fired at enemies three and a half kilometers away. The M224 60mm mortar system has become a staple of American light infantry operations, and now it's becoming one for the Afghan National Army.

Members of the 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps, finished more than a month of training on the 60mm mortar weapon system at Forward Operating Base Gamberi with instructors from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Task Force Patriot, with a cumulative live-fire exercise, Wednesday.

"They're all very bright. They're all very motivated. The class overall, I think it went very well," said Staff Sgt. David Flores, mortar lead instructor, 2nd Battalion.

Afghan soldiers spent that cold January morning practicing setting up their equipment and tearing it down again, building muscle memory. They practiced proper methods for handling the mortar tube and for dropping the rounds inside. They practiced everything the instructors had shown them over the course of the last month.

"Everything was awesome. The instructors were hard working and had good efficiency. They brought a lot of positive changes to our team and in our soldiers. Now we can do better things in our combat operations," said Masood, a mortarman with 4th Brigade, 201st Afghan National Army Corps.

Emphasis on safety was a key point during the live fire. In addition to practicing everything else, the instructors from 2nd Battalion also went over multiple misfire drills with each student.

Safety around the tube was also a main point of what Flores calls his "practical mortar knowledge exam," a test he administered to the class toward the end of the training.

"It consisted of general knowledge questions which we went over through the course of our four and a half week class," said Flores, a native of Agana Heights, Guam. "That included capabilities and characteristics. That included tactical employment, as well as misfire procedures."

The test also included practical exercises, like setting up or "mounting" the tube within a given time and accurately laying onto a target.

Of the 24 soldiers going through the training, ten got a perfect score on the practical mortar knowledge exam.

"Just over a third, nearly half of the students got a perfect score," said Flores. "It says that they have a firm demonstrated capability of learning."

Adding a fun twist to the final day's live-fire exercise, those ten soldiers were called on to compete against each other in teams to see who could mount their tube and lay onto the target down range the fastest. No one kept official scores or times, but it allowed the Afghan National Army to enjoy their final day of training with their 2nd Battalion mentors that much more.

After fun, Afghan mortarmen got down to business and commenced the live fire.

"It was good training. We learned a lot of things in this training," said Masood. "I know a lot of things now and I can perform a better public service for my country now."

The Afghan army is in the process of phasing out many of the Soviet-era weapons systems they've had for years in favor of a NATO standardized weapon set. The M224 is a part of that changeover, so receiving the necessary training to operate their new equipment is essential.

Another major benefit the students are getting from training with 2nd Battalion on the 60mm system is the skill set they learn are applicable to many other indirect fire systems as well.

"The general rule is 'a mortar's a mortar's a mortar'. I've been a [mortarman] for about ten years now and everything that I've learned as a [mortarman], I can apply to just about any mortar system in existence on this planet," said Flores. "I taught them tactics and techniques that they can use anywhere with any mortar system."

Now with Afghan presidential elections on the horizon, Flores is confident his students are more than capable to help secure their country during the elections. He also knows they will be able to show their Afghan National Army comrades the same skills they learned from him and his Soldiers.

He has a good reason to feel confident. Before coming out for the live fire, Flores received a report of his previous students having effects on an enemy in the first two shots during a recent engagement.

"I think they're ready to go out and succeed. I think they're ready to go out and train their own soldiers and become successful, and that was my primary goal," said Flores.

Of the five U.S. Soldiers who assisted with instructing the class, four of them are on their first deployment.

"I got to watch them grow as Soldiers. I'm very pleased with the progress that they've made as Soldiers," added Flores.

Even though the training focused on assisting the Afghan army, Flores believes the skills his men learned are just as important as the skills they taught their Afghan National Army counterparts.

"It benefited everyone, my Soldiers, the [Afghan National Army], everybody. My Soldiers that came here and helped me train this course, I think they're ready to go back with skills that will help them succeed in their future job opportunities," said Flores. "They've got the ability to interact with and mentor other people and you can take that as a building block to mentoring and teaching any skill, anywhere."

Page last updated Mon January 13th, 2014 at 00:00