NTM-A leadership tours Afghanistan capital region FOBs
February 21, 2011
- NTM-A/CSTC-A deputy commanding general leads battlefield circulation around Kabul's capital region
- One Afghan police training site, 3 Foward Operating Bases visited
KABUL PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The new deputy commanding general of the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan visited a training site and three Forward Operating Bases for the Afghan National Army Feb. 15.
Maj. Gen. James B. Mallory was accompanied by Brig. Gen. John J. McGuiness, deputy commander, Regional Support, and incoming DCOM-RS, Brig. Gen. Guy T. Cosentino. Also in the "battlefield circulation" was Col. Bob Wicks, commander, Regional Support Command-Capital, Camp Phoenix, whose command oversees training Afghan National Security Force training sites, along with the contracting, implementation and completion of the builds like the FOBs.
After attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony that morning at Kabul International Airport for the new women's customs search area, the NTM-A/CSTC-A leadership then went to the Central Training Center, where Italian Lt. Col. Eugenio Giordano, chief supervisor, provided a slide presentation on the mission of the CTC which is to train recruits to become Afghan National Police and provide training to noncommissioned officers.
Today, however, there was no training to be found because of an Afghan holiday which allowed a few days off for the recruits.
Giordano said that the maximum operational capability of the CTC was 550 students. As of February, 2,078 students have graduated to support the Afghan National Police since the NTM-A stood up as a training center in November 2009.
While the CTC is predominantly Italian run, Giordano said it was receiving assistance from Japan in the way of warehouse, laundry, gym facilities and anti-mortar bunkers.
The ANP, he said, must provide stability so rule of law could happen throughout Afghanistan; keep the security and counter terrorism; and develop a self-sustaining structure that would require minimal NATO support.
After his presentation, Army 1st Sgt. Mario Guerrero went through his slides citing the "hit or miss" reality of obtaining training aids through normal logistics channels.
"Sometimes the forms [to order] get lost," he said.
His presentation was followed by Maj. Veronica Ko, ANP support operations officer, RSC-C.
After a short presentation, the group visited a classroom, an open bay sleeping area with some recruits present, a logistics warehouse and then another classroom that really caught the attention of Mallory.
The classroom had professionally made posters on its walls serving as training aids for shooting showing correct standing position, prone position, correct alignment, and ANP ranks, to name a few.
"Take these type of training aids, mass produce them, and get them out," Mallory enthusiastically said. "This is the best classroom with training aids that I've seen in Afghanistan."
After learning they were locally produced, he asked those in the room who was responsible for them.
Attention then turned to Italian 1st Sgt. Francesco Stello who was congratulated by Mallory.
From here, the group went to Camp Phoenix for a working lunch that consisted of a RSC-C command briefing at its headquarters.
"You are the future," Mallory told command staffers just prior to the briefing. "I think more and more will be shifted onto your plate," he said, as fighting operations decline and training and construction continues during the years ahead.
"The next three years are going to be critical," he said. "I appreciate you being pioneers of the effort." Mallory likened them to a "little band of brothers and sisters" and added, "My hat is off to you."
During the briefing, Mallory was told most projects in the region are under $1million. The projects are short-term, high-quality projects that improve operational force protection and include quality of life benefits.
Quality of life is important, said Wicks, commander of the RSC-C, because it "directly impacts attrition."
Maj. Brian George, engineering chief, said there were currently 156 projects underway to support the ANSF in the capital region at a cost of $62 million.
Mallory also learned from Maj. "DJ" Warren, logistics officer-in-charge, that logistics, with 365 contracts totaling $28 million, exist to support such things as the five ANA FOBs around Kabul through life support and sustainment contracts, logistics training, and branch school growth.
Warren told Mallory that transitioning over to eventual Afghan control involves teaching good financial stewardship.
"They like to hoard stuff, that a cultural mindset," Warren said. "The biggest challenge is getting them to know their system and being able to order things."
We're "preaching accountability and sustainability" to them, Warren said. "We've created confidence in the Afghans with their own system."
Upon completion of the briefing, the group took off by helicopter to FOB Bhut Khak to check on its status.
This FOB is slated for completion on March 20 and will be able to house 700 ANA soldiers.
The FOB is one of five that are strategically place in the countryside outside Kabul as the first line of defense against insurgents.
The next stop by flight was at FOB Deh Sabz. While construction continues, contractors did voice concern on getting paid. RSC-C personnel explained payment was coming soon, but that DFAS - Defense Finance & Accounting Service - has some issues with invoices that were being corrected to make the payment.
When completed, it will house 800 people and is scheduled for completion in March. Hafez Construction and Road Building Company is the contractor.
From here, the group flew to FOB Hussein Khut.
Here the group was met by Rashid Joyaa, president of Global Engineering & Consulting Services, Kabul. About 30 to 40 people are employed to building this FOB, Joyaa said.
The FOB, like the one before, had close to a foot of heavy, wet snow.
Asked by Mallory his biggest challenge in building, Joyaa replied: "On time delivery. I think that's the biggest challenge" and then added "Resources, as far as supplies."
Joyaa also answered when asked of his greatest frustration, "That's very hard to answer in one word." He then explained that getting paid - "the system itself" is very cumbersome.
Joyaa gave one example that DFAS rejected paperwork for payment because a comma was after the "LTD" of a company name, versus a period.
"I think it has to be fixed," he said. In Afghanistan, Joyaa said, "Everything is based on cash" as there is no credit system.
Mallory also asked if him what Joyaa - who earlier explained that he has lived in the United States for more than a decade -- thought of the overall situation in Afghanistan.
"We are having hopes," he said. "I think now more positive."
Joyaa also answered that 85 percent of the workers on site are from his company and the remaining are subcontracted out.
He explained there are two classes of workers in Afghanistan - unskilled and skilled.
"Thirty years of war have devastated the infrastructure," he said.