FOB LIGHTNING, Afghanistan -- At the NATO/U.S.-led Joint Operation Center here, there is an Afghan Army officer observing and learning how a world-class military deployed unit works in his country. On the other end of the FOB, a U.S. Army officer observes, watches and assists Afghans in their JOC assessing the enemy on a daily basis.
The JOC is a jointly manned facility of a commander's headquarters established for planning, monitoring, and guiding the execution of the commander's decisions. It is proactively engaged in nonstop operations pertaining to command and control programs. In essence, it's the heart and brain of an organization.
FOB Lightning is headquarters to the Army's newest premier unit, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, deployed to Afghanistan in support of the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support. The unit is designed to train, advise, and assist other nation's militaries in need of specialized expertise based on a multitude of specialized experience that each member brings. In Afghanistan, 1st SFAB enables the Afghans from the battalion to Corps level.
The unit's home station is Fort Benning, Georgia.
For the Afghanistan National Army's 203rd Corps headquartered here, Capt. Rahmuddin Wali Zadah, a nine-year infantry officer, serving as an operations liaison officer, the experience has been good.
"Very interesting work," he said through a linguist. "Everybody's friendly."
Earlier in his career, Zadah said he assisted U.S. Special Forces and that is where he learned how to properly report to a JOC.
A normal day for Zadah is to report to the 1st SFAB JOC at 8 a.m. and work there until noon. After eating, praying and working out at the gym, he heads to the JOC on the Afghan side of the base and works there to about midnight and then calls it a day.
"Any time they need me, I'm willing to come and help," he said.
Asked what he has learned at the JOC, Zadah said how to plot grid coordinates using Google Maps and how to stay busy.
Regarding grid coordinates, Capt. Travis Coley, an explosive ordnance disposal officer in charge and senior bomb technician, overseeing Zadah's interview for clarification purposes, said Afghans normally relate an incident's location by physical locations such as street names, buildings, or any other known land-based objects instead of grid coordinates which can spot a location within about 10 yards.
Coley said what Zadah has learned is "enduring results" on how to run a professional operations center. And, of course, Zadah shares this experience with the personnel in the Afghan JOC.
"No one in this organization has ever done anything like this before," Coley said, of personnel assisting in each other's JOC.
On the other side of the base, Afghan Soldiers inside their JOC monitor computer screens, handle phone calls, and discuss things amongst themselves.
In the room with them is Maj. Chris Welsh, a 16-year veteran who specializes in intelligence. Besides serving as a company commander, Welsh also serves as an adviser to the Afghan's intelligence directorate.
He, along with other 1st SFAB Soldiers, serve on a combat adviser team during three different daily shifts, to advise and assist the Afghans in their JOC.
While there are physical differences in the two JOCs, Welsh said the Afghans have the necessary tools to carry out operations.
"They do have the capabilities," he said, citing that functionality is similar in that they have digital systems to provide mapping imagery and can receive Afghan air support video feeds.
"They really have come a long way," Welsh said. The issue, he said, is not capability, but how the leadership implements the information. If used wisely, that can improve ground-tactics, he said.
Welsh references that with comparing his experiences of being deployed a total of three years in Iraq and serving in Afghanistan for six months in 2013.
Working with the Afghans in their JOC has been a good thing, he said. "It's been rewarding on a number of occasions," Welsh said. "They're truly patriots."
He added that the Afghans are making "significant headway" regarding intelligence.
"It has been really encouraging and rewarding," Welsh said of the overall swap in officers at the JOCs yielding some positive results.
The TAA approach is working, Welsh said, "That's the biggest potential -- to have that experience and seniority partnered with them."