KABUL - As the Afghan National Army continues to grow, the development of the corps of noncommissioned officers has become a priority to provide qualified leadership to train and mentor junior soldiers.

A new program developed by the ANA called "One Uniform" recognizes that education is the key to success. It takes young Afghan men with a high school diploma and transforms them into NCOs.

"After they graduate from high school, they come join the army and we nominate them for the One Uniform program," said Afghan Col. Mohammad Amin-Wahidi, training and education officer, Kabul Military Training Center.

With the goal of reaching 134,000 ANA soldiers by October 2011, the number of junior soldiers is rapidly increasing. Skilled NCOs who can lead these soldiers have become a valuable asset.

"We need a lot of professional noncommissioned to train our soldiers," said Amin-Wahidi.
Much like in the U.S. Army, Amin-Wahidi said NCOs are the backbone of the ANA.

During the 12-week course, soldiers learn infantry tactics, such as land navigation, squad movements and medical aid along with the leadership skills needed to be a successful NCO.

"These guys pick up what they are being taught right away and execute to a good standard," said British Royal Army Color Sgt. John Penney, a mentor for the One Uniform instructors. "They are acting as platoon commanders, platoon sergeants, squad leaders and team leaders, and they are executing the job to the standard."

Penney said he believes their intelligence, understanding, standards, and military bearing and ethos will take them far in their careers and benefit the ANA in the future.

"One Uniform is the way ahead for the Afghan National Army certainly if they want a good standard for junior NCOs and senior NCOs," he said.