Leading Afghan recruits
Afghan National Army Operations Sgt. Maj. Akhtar Muhammad trains with new Afghan Army recruits at Forward Operating Base Thunder Jan. 22.

PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Army News Service, Jan. 24, 2011) - The newest 600 recruits in the Afghan National Army traveled to Forward Operating Base Thunder, home of the Afghan 203rd Thunder Corps, where they began basic training Jan. 15.

By March, the ANA expects the number of recruits signing up to exceed 1,200 future soldiers.

U.S. Soldiers from the 4th Platoon of the 1st Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, stationed at Forward Operating Base Lightning, meanwhile advise Afghan instructors and help train new recruits.

"Nothing prepares you to train like this," said senior adviser Capt. Phil Durkin. "This is not the American Army, they have their own standards."

The adjustment for the Afghans is difficult since the recruits must adjust to both life in the military and working with the American servicemembers who partner with Afghan instructors.

"It's the first time many of these guys have worn western clothes, been around Americans or visited an army base," said Sgt. Scott Hannah, an instructor who trains with the ANA 203rd Thunder Corps' 3rd Basic Warrior Training Company.

Afghan soldiers learn the same basic taught to U.S. recruits, where cots are meticulously made; shoes, towels and sandals are evenly lined up and barracks' floors sparkle from intense swabbing.

"It's pretty much the same as American basic training, but the Afghan instructors are a lot more, 'hands-on'," said advisor Cpl. Brandon Metzer, adding that Afghan instructors don't do a lot of yelling, but they are quick to grab hold of new recruits and get them moving in the right direction.

ANA Operations Sgt. Maj. Akhtar Muhammad personally trains many of the recruits.

"I feel good about these guys. They are the best I have worked with," said Muhammad, who has trained more than 58 Afghan companies in the last six months.

ANA Pvt. Gul Nazim of Kapisa Province is excited about the training he is receiving and expressed pride and optimism in his decision to the join the Afghan army, especially since he's the first in his family to sign on.

"I decided that I must help my country," he said. "We will have a great future and the Afghan army will be strong if we continue to train like this," said Nazim.

(Capt. Kenneth A. Stewart serves with the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

Page last updated Mon January 24th, 2011 at 12:11