Training for insider attacks: Alert, aware advisors key to saving lives
December 10, 2012
FORT POLK, La. ---- The threat of insider attacks in Afghanistan is very real. In the past year, 14 percent of coalition casualties resulted from attacks by Afghan National Security Forces or by infiltrators posing as ANSF. At the 162nd Infantry Brigade, training advisors to prevent these incidents is taken seriously.
As with all training provided by the Tiger Brigade, realism is one of the keys to a successful training event. In the course of advisor training, this involves using actual scenarios from theater and having native Afghan roleplayers portraying ANSF leaders. One new aspect of this training is having a survivor of an insider attack in the brigade.
The day of Aug. 9, 2012 started out just like any other day for 1st Lt. Zach Camp, who currently serves as the executive officer of A Company, 4th Battalion, 353rd Infantry Regiment. He was deployed as a member of the brigade's Task Force Tiger II Security Force Assistance Teams when he became the victim of an insider attack.
"My team and I were leaving our (forward operating base) to work with our Afghan counterparts for the day," Camp said. "Upon leaving the FOB, we were met with machine gun fire in an ambush style attack. I was hit in the left leg near my hip. I low-crawled out of the open and found some cover behind a Hesco barrier that formed our (entry control point) to the FOB. My team returned fire as (I received) first aid. Minutes later, a Quick Reaction Force and medic came to our aid. I was evacuated out to Bagram later that day, where I received my first of three surgeries. It was later while in Landstuhl, Germany that I was informed that I was a victim of an insider attack."
This is a story that Camp relates to advisors attending the brigade's Security Force Assistance Course.
During the course, there is a block of instruction dedicated to insider threat. During that instruction, advisors are taught what to look for and how to prevent these attacks from happening.
"We are focused on education so Soldiers know what to look for, and that education is reinforced by performance-oriented, practical exercises," said Col. Matthew F. McKenna, commander, 162nd Inf Bde.
The training that Camp provides offers realism, letting the advisors know that despite what some believe, an insider attack is something that could happen to them.
"Despite hearing how prevalent insider attacks are, I thought it would never happen to our team, much less to me," Camp said.
"Before I left for Afghanistan, all I heard about was the statistics, not the reality of this kind of attack."
After being asked to speak with advisors during a block of instruction, Camp put together a presentation he now shares with advisors attending the course.
The reactions he sometimes receives really drive home the importance of realism in training.
"The first time I shared my experience with advisors, I noticed a lot of 'bug-eyed' expressions followed by a few questions," he said.
The classroom instruction that is punctuated by Camp's briefing is followed up with training during a command post exercise in the Security Force Assistance course, and by situation training exercises and force on force training during Combat Training Center rotations.
It is during this portion of training that advisors must take what they have learned in the classroom and put it to use in a field environment.
According to McKenna, one of the most important things an advisor can do is build and maintain rapport with their counterparts. That way, your counterparts will let you know who is coming and going, and if something is wrong.
"Advisor teams need to build a solid bond of trust where you know that man to your left and right has your back," Camp said.
"Team members need to make the most of all their training here and draw on that training downrange."
As advisors finish their training here and get ready to deploy to Afghanistan, Camp is grateful for the support he receives from his chain of command, and while his tour of duty was cut short, he hopes that the lessons he learned will help future advisors.
"I think the most important thing I have to give to the advisors is my story of what happened that day and the days prior to, so that they can use their own reasoning to see if there was in fact any warning signs of a insider attack," Camp said.
"This is a skill they will have to develop and use daily as they build relationships with their Afghan counterparts."