KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - U.S. Soldiers from the Maine National Guard 286th Combat Support Sustainment Battalion trained Afghan National Army soldiers on the basic functions of M-16 rifles Sept. 5 and 6 at ANA Camp Hero, Kandahar province.

Many ANA soldiers have previously used AK-47 rifles, but learn to use the M-16 because of its accuracy. The rifle training is part of an ongoing coalition effort to mentor the 286th CSSB's Afghan equivalent, a combat service support battalion called Kandak Five, located at Camp Hero.

"[The M-16] will make a good weapon if we keep it clean," said Kandak Five Sgt. Malim Abdul Ghani Kalamyar, a training participant. "It will help us."

During the first training day, the American troops stressed basic safety rules, like keeping weapons pointed at the ground, before moving on to the basic functions of the M-16. The instructors explained through an interpreter how the weapon fires and then demonstrated how to break down the weapon and finally put it back together.

"If you watch them [ANA soldiers] first thing Saturday morning compared to in the afternoon, they come out of their shell a little bit," said U.S. Capt. Jeff Whitten, the 286th CSSB headquarters and headquarters company commander from Enfield, Maine. "We get them to do a little competition breaking the weapon apart. We get them to cheer for each other."

The second day, the 286th CSSB Soldiers started by reviewing the previous day's lesson material, and then explaining fundamental firing techniques: aim, breath and trigger squeeze.

"The good thing is they like to talk with their hands as much as I do, so I can kind of pick up on that," said U.S. Staff Sgt. Kyle Roy, the main mentor and a 286th CSSB HHC operations noncommissioned officer from Burnham, Maine.

For more interaction, they moved outside where the ANA soldiers practiced elementary firing positions and then performed dime drills. As part of these drills, a dime is placed on the end of the muzzle. The troop must squeeze the trigger and keep the weapon steady, without shaking the dime off the barrel.

On day three, Canadian forces who mentor daily at Camp Hero take the Kandak troops to the nearby firing range to put into practice their newly-acquired M-16 training.

"Currently we are working on a plan to implement more [training] based on a Kandak's need," said Whitten.

Servicemembers are evaluating a program that would teach Afghan soldiers how to drive wreckers and perform wrecker recovery. They also plan to eventually bring troops from Kandak Five to the 286th CSSB compound on KAF for hands-on mentorship. For example, maintenance soldiers from the Kandak would work with maintenance Soldiers from the 286th CSSB in their KAF maintenance bay.

"The Americans are very good," said Kalamyar. "Especially the instructors are very good. We thank them and appreciate them coming here and spending the time with us."
As kandaks maintain their crucial supply and logistic role for ANA soldiers in war-torn Afghanistan, the 286th CSSB continues to mentor and impart knowledge to troops from Kandak Five.