Last West Point mentor at Afghan academy flies U.S. flag
October 11, 2012
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 11, 2012) -- Staff and faculty from the U.S Military Academy at West Point have been involved with the National Military Academy of Afghanistan since 2003, when a team went to Afghanistan to advise the Afghan National Army and to help develop a model for the founding of a military academy to train new ANA officers.
The National Military Academy of Afghanistan, or NMAA, opened its doors in a temporary location in 2005, with more members of the West Point staff and faculty on-hand to act as mentors. The new academy's organization is based on West Point's, but is run so that it works for the Afghan population. Many of the cadets, who come from 34 provinces throughout Afghanistan, had never met members of other tribes until they entered the academy, so there are growing pains as each class enters.
Lt. Col John Hartke, U.S. Military Academy, or USMA, professor in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering and senior military adviser and team chief, is the last U.S. adviser assigned to the NMAA. There have been 147 U.S. military mentors who have worked with the NMAA staff since 2003, 102 of whom are from West Point. The other 45 came from the U.S Air Force Academy (37), who started sending mentors in 2007; the U.S. Naval Academy (5), whose mentors first came in 2010; and the Command and General Staff College (3).
Hartke recently flew the American flag at the original site of the NMAA on the south side of the Kabul Afghanistan International Airport. Over the past month, NMAA cadets, staff and faculty have been moving to NMAA's new location at the Afghan National Defense University at Qargha, located on the far west side of Kabul.
"Because of the significant contribution USMA has made to NMAA while at the S-KAIA campus, I thought it was appropriate to fly an American flag over the campus the last day an American was going to be working there with NMAA," Hartke said. "I plan on flying the same flag over the new NMAA campus at Qargha the first day of classes to commemorate all the hard work of the advisors before me who made NMAA a reality. I will fly it again over the campus my last day at Qargha signifying the end of the U.S. presence at NMAA and bring it back to West Point for possible display."
One of the French advisers assisted Hartke in properly folding the U.S. flag after he lowered it. NMAA will not be without experienced advisers, however.
"NMAA is reaching the point where it doesn't need a full-time U.S.-USMA presence. So, once the Afghans settle-in and start teaching in the new facility, I will re-deploy to USMA to continue my duties in the Department of Physics and Nuclear Engineering," Hartke said. "But I will leave behind some coalition advisers. France and Turkey have entered into an agreement with Afghanistan to continue to advise the NMAA leaders. Right now, my team consists of three French officers and an NCO. They will be replaced in about a month by a larger French team. Turkey has over a dozen advisers to assist NMAA."
The new location NMAA is part of the Afghan National Defense University.
"Over the last month, the NMAA cadets, staff and faculty have been moving to NMAA's new location at the Afghan National Defense University at Qargha, which is located on the far west side of Kabul," Hartke explained. "ANDU will have several schools associated with the Afghan National Army professional military education programs----the Sergeants Major Academy, Afghan Foreign Language Institute, Afghan Officers Academy (which is built on the Sandhurst model) and the Command and Staff College. The NMAA portion of the ANDU campus is the first completed section. The other schools are still under construction."
Training for the NMAA cadets continues while the move is taking place.
"The cadets are currently out doing cadet field training at the Kabul Military Training Center but they return at the beginning of November to start classes," Hartke said. "The campus that NMAA is leaving on S-KAIA is being occupied by the Afghan Air University."
The first class graduated from NMAA in 2009, having earned a bachelor's degree, but also incurring an 11-year commitment to the ANA. They also had their first group of 10 women medical students enter in 2009 who, after one year at NMAA moved on to complete their medical training. This year 16 women joined the brigade of cadets and will graduate in 2016 to join the ANA.
While USMA will not have a physical presence at NMAA, the bond that has been formed between the U.S. mentors and their Afghan partners will endure.