Yak Team Wahed - One Team United
April 24, 2012
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (April 24, 2012) -- "Yak team Wahed." That saying had special meaning to us as our interpreter, Wahed, bridged the language gap and made it possible for NATO soldiers to communicate and work seamlessly with Afghan soldiers. We seldom hear of the successful tandem efforts between the ANA and their coalition counterparts but that afternoon we had the opportunity to see it. That is exactly what this mismatched group was -- One Team United.
As we drove up to a portion of the base I've never been, the tall barricades and iron gates block the view of where we would be spending the next few hours with the Afghan National Army.
The tall, slender Air Force Tech Sergeant turned to me and said, "We're on red in this area, so you if you want to, you can go to red."
He said it so calm and cool as if he were giving me options for lunch, but what he meant was "you might want to lock and load your weapon in this area."
Although the team of US and European Soldiers visit twice a week to train the ANA Army, staying vigilant is a must. I swiftly slapped my loaded magazine in the well as we walked through the iron gates into the Afghan compound on Kandahar.
We were a small medley of multi-national forces, led by a local interpreter whose friendly and cheery demeanor made any nervous feeling I had dissipate quickly. I looked around, amazed at the flowers, palm trees and landscaping, my only experience of this country has been brown dirt and broken gravel.
As we made our way further into the compound, until we arrived at a mechanic style garage with a large white school bus sticking halfway out. One of the ANA soldiers sat parked in the driver's seat and waved as we walked inside to visit for the day. On the other side of the open garage, a humvee with a dead battery sat, and outside the garage, a large generator out of commission.
I watched out of the corner of my eye as the large group of ANA Soldiers swiftly broke apart and traveled from one item to the other, deciding which puzzle to work on first. They were scurrying around with eyes bright, like children at the park who take the decision of which jungle gym to play on first very seriously.
SPC Farlance Breece, a maintenance specialist for the US Army, works with these Soldiers twice a week and happily told me about his temporary duty to train and work with the ANA. He spoke of his new comrades with warmth, as he told me about their curious nature and ingenuity. The Soldiers started just a few weeks before teaching the ANA soldiers how to properly maintain and repair their vehicles and equipment but it didn't take long for them to catch on.
"Most of these guys have learned this stuff from their fathers so we just show them new ways to do some things and teach them more complicated things, Breece said. "They are very smart, they catch on fast. Today we changed the oil in a Blue Jay bus and looked at an up-armored humvee. We tried to do battery repair but ran out of battery acid," he said.
I saw their problem solving skills in action as two ANA soldiers snuck off for a few minutes and re-appeared with a large bucket of clear liquid.
"They found more battery acid, Breece said with a chuckle, "I don't know where they got it from but they found more and there the go," as he points to the ANA soldiers funneling acid into the old battery.
After the two maintenance items for the day were complete, the ANA decided to keep the momentum going and brought in the rest of their vehicles for oil changes.
"Look their PCS-ing the vehicles on their own now," PFC Jonathan Raines said with a pleasant surprise as I was chatting with him and his team members. Both Soldiers say working with the Afghan Army has been a positive experience for both forces.
"It's one of the high points of my week," Raines said. "I really enjoy working with them; they all have a sense of humor. Even if I don't understand what they're saying, it's still entertaining."