US, Afghan air forces partner for security drills
November 8, 2010
U.S. Air Force members partnered with their Afghan Air Force counterparts Nov. 6-7 for the pinnacle of a month-long security training session.
After attending classroom lessons regarding the laws of armed conflict and weapons discipline, the Soldiers of the Kandahar Air Wing Security Kandak, a squadron-level unit, began their field work with Humvee familiarization.
"These guys are super-motivated," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Kowalski, 443rd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. "If I came out here one day with some parachutes and told them we'd be jumping out of a plane, they'd shout and push to be first in line."
As mentors, it is Kowalski and his team's job to assess skill levels and foster steady, measured growth. So instead of directly teaching quick-response tactics, the mentors took turns riding in a Humvee with an Afghan driver and practicing dismount procedures.
During the driving course, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Smith, 443rd AEAS, corrected minor mistakes with words of encouragement such as, "good speed, don't beep the horn so much, perfect, try to think ahead to what could be in the street."
He said he wants the AAF members to be aware of their surroundings all of the time, so when the time comes to act, they will be ready.
"We are good soldiers," said Afghan Air Force Sgt. Shed Didther, Security Kandak. "And this training helps us get ready to take over outside these walls."
By the time the Afghan security team began dismount training, a small crowd of other Afghan soldiers had formed. Among the onlookers was Afghan Air Force Capt. Sher Afzel, Security Kandak deputy commander, who expressed his pleasure with the improvement he has seen in his troops.
"I hope we and the coalition forces have this same partnership forever," Afzel said. "Not just for the present situation, but forever, always.
"We're not in the position we're supposed to be," Afzel continued, "but we're going forward."
One of the advisory squadron's priorities is to push the AAF junior soldiers to be as professional and technically proficient as the NCO or officer corps, Kowalski said. As a motivation tool, the security drills reinforce feelings of importance and self-worth - ideals the force once lacked.
"Of course these guys can work gate security," Kowalski said. "Our mission is to be able to provide training to make them a self-sustainable air force. Essentially, we're trying to put ourselves out of a job."
When teaching, the mentors take the time to get the Afghan NCOs interested and motivated, said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Chris Edgerton, 443rd AEAS. Once trained, the idea is for those people to go on to train junior members until the AAF reaches that sought-after sustainability.
"We've got a good group here," Edgerton said. "It's definitely rewarding; we create strong relationships not only with the leadership, but with the NCOs and the junior soldiers."
The feelings of friendship and commitment are shared by many throughout the Security Kandak, he said, but the point was driven home by their lead Afghan enlisted soldier.
"Specifically for the mentors here I respect that they came from far away to help," said Afghan Air Force Sgt. Sayeed Mohammad, Security Kandak noncommissioned officer- in-charge. "We've done a great job by ourselves, and we've done even better once they got here.
"Maybe, once they return home after their one-year tour, they'll begin to miss us," he said with a laugh.