By Lt. Col. Mike Stoneham, National Military Academy of Afghanistan MentorApril 1, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. (March 30, 2010) -- Cadets at the National Military Academy of Afghanistan have set their sights on the Sandhurst trophy.
More than 150 cadets tried out for the 11-man team in December 2009. The determined cadets chosen to compete have been training every afternoon since for the two-day competition. Guided by Sgt. 1st Class Bud Croy, the NMAA mentor who has been helping to train the team, these cadets have committed to traveling the 6,731 miles that separate Kabul from West Point in hopes of defeating the 32 West Point cadet teams and the other schools' team participating in the military skills competition April 9-10.
They know they will have some tough competition. Unlike their West Point allies, the NMAA cadets come from every Kandak (battalion) in the cadet corps at NMAA, and they don't have the home turf advantage. In fact, no terrain in their experience is anything like the terrain at West Point. Forests do not exist in the Kabul area where both NMAA and the Kabul Military Training Area, the cadets' primary summer training area, are located. Barren 8,000 foot mountains surround Kabul and the terrain interval on the maps where they train is 50 meters. Also, there is only one lake within an hour of NMAA. Therefore, they have only rare opportunities to practice, or even experience, a boat movement.
Regardless, the cadets have been training hard for the 12-event competition. They even gave up their graduation leave (NMAA graduated 212 ANA lieutenants on March 18) to further refi ne their skills for the competition. In several long days at KMTA, the cadets honed their shooting skills, developed their land navigation abilities, extended their knowledge of crew-served weapons and improved their decision-making processes. They muscled through punishing road marches in the open plains surrounding the Gharib Ghar, the steep, rocky mountain that dominates the main Afghan training area in the Kabul area.
Blistered and visibly tired after their culminating training event (an octathalon combining shooting, road marching, land navigation, combat casualty care, casualty transport, manual truck recovery, strength training and crisis decision-making on a leaderhip reaction course), the cadets are now in final preparation for their trip to West Point.
They are excited about the opportunity to travel to the United States and are convinced they will be able to put on a good show during the Sandhurst Competition. For many members of the group, this will be their fi rst trip out of Afghanistan.
For three, however, this is a return trip. Last year, three cadets,Yusuf Qorbani, Wahidullah Yaqubi and Taef Azizi, were part of the Afghan team that placed 40th. This year, with the help of a strong West Point cadet female volunteer, they intend to win.
Each NMAA team member is looking forward to meeting members of the West Point community and making lifelong friends with their West Point cadet counterparts, especially the cadets in Company C-2 (their Sandhurst host). The NMAA cadets plan to fortify their learning about the United States and put all of their training to work during the annual event.