By Petty Officer 2nd Class Ernesto Hernandez FonteJanuary 22, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - The senior enlisted leader of the Afghan National Army was honored during a ceremony Jan. 18 at Kabul Military Training Center.
Afghan Sgt. Maj. of the Army Roshan Safi was recognized for his induction into the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy International Hall Of Fame located on Fort Bliss, Texas. Safi was recognized for his ten years of service to Afghanistan.
With his induction, Safi joins an elite group of senior enlisted leaders who have attained through honorable and meritorious means the highest enlisted positions in their nation\'s armed forces. Guest speaker at the ceremony was Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for International Security Assistance Force/U.S. Forces Afghanistan.
"The hall of honor award recognizes the special role of the noncommissioned officers - their responsibilities, accomplishments and the vital role they play in the defense of their nation," said Hill. "It recognizes a noncommissioned officer who has devoted a lifetime of selfless service to their Army, fellow Soldiers and to the people."
Hill, who met Safi during an U.S. Army conference in EL Paso, Texas, described him as a leader who inspires, has the vision and passion to achieve and injects energy and enthusiasm.
"He constantly reminds us all that soldiering is an outdoor sport," said Hill. "It's a contact sport and it's an audience participation sport."
Safi wasn't always a Soldier. He grew up with three brothers and two sisters in a small village located in the Tagab District in Kapisia. He came from a poor family. In late 2001, he joined the Afghan National Army as the lowest enlisted rank, a private. His battalion was the second battalion to be created in the Afghan Army.
"When I was a young kid I grew up taught to obey the law and to respect the will of god," said Safi. "I joined the ANA to help my people. More than anything they need security. I want my people to breathe and relax. I want to bring them security."
Ten years later when he talks to the civilian community, he still hears the same request.
"They ask for security. It's very important and that's why I joined the Afghan National Army," said Safi. "I love for my country and love my Army. There is great honor and privilege in being a Soldier in the Afghan National Army."
His battalion was the first to deploy in 2002. Their first deployment was to Bamiyan, then Khost and finally to Kandahar providence. Today Safi travels to check on the morale, welfare and problems of Soldiers. Last year, he visited 280 districts to meet Soldiers throughout Afghanistan. However, the Sergeant Major still itches for a fight.
"When I was the battalion sergeant major, brigade sergeant major and corps sergeant major, I would always be with the Soldiers fighting," he says proudly. "I was the first fighting and I was the last one to leave. No matter what province it is this is my country and where ever the Army needs me, I will be there to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Soldiers and the Coalition."
The Army that he joined in 2001 has changed vastly.
"There are too many changes to answer. When I had an old AK-47, I was worried and the bad guys were worried about my AK-47," said Safi half jokingly. "Right now the enemy is worried about my M-16. We have very good equipment, training in place, growing leadership and everything is going in a positive direction."
Safi has seen a shift in focus from increasing the number of Soldiers to increasing the quality of the current population and new recruits.
"We are growing our educational programs and increasing literacy," said Safi. "When we've seen a challenge we have overcome, today we have a literacy program through which by next year everyone will read and write. With assistance we are growing."
He compares Afghanistan to a sick patient at a hospital and the countries supporting the International Security Assistance Force and NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan to a doctor.
"If you look at Al Quaida and the Taliban, they are the enemies of humanity not just Afghanistan," he said. "We have come together to fight against them. Today we plan and execute operations together. In any headquarters you will find that the Coalition, Afghan Army, Afghan Police and civilians are working together. All these groups are working together and it shows our power throughout the country."
Safi's Army has grown to be a well respected organization throughout the country. He sees the responsibility of the Afghan National Army to be of the people for people.
"There have been three natural disasters," said Safi. "For the snow they called the ANA, for the earthquake they called the ANA and for flood they called for the ANA."
He sees himself as having a responsibility to his Soldiers. The head enlisted advisor to Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, Afghan National Army Chief Of General Staff, Safi's biggest responsibility is to represent the enlisted side of the Army. If there are any issues with training, morale, welfare, pay and living conditions Safi takes them to Karimi.
"We are joined at the hip. We work together to take care of our Soldiers," said Safi about his relationship with Karimi.
According to Safi, there are two things that have not changed from his job description ever since I was a squad leader. One is to lead by example and the other to take care of Soldiers.
"If you join the Army you have two fathers. I am father and mother to my Soldiers," he said.
It's these two qualities that he attributes to making rank, qualities that have continued to be a critical part of his current position. Since he became the sergeant major of the Afghan National Army in June 2006, he has had monumental task of addressing the physical, professional and mental state of enlisted Afghan Soldiers. Along the way he has also dealt with war in his homeland, death and attacks on family members and felt the pressure of being a role model for numerous Soldiers.
"I never gave promises to my Soldiers that we would be coming back not wounded, not dying. I promised that we would be coming together. I always brought my Soldiers back," said Safi becoming more somber. "War is very ugly and the price of freedom is not cheap. Every day we lose Soldiers but they die for an honorable reason. The freedom of 14 million people in Afghanistan is not free."
Asked about the future he is proud of the accomplishments that have dawned on Afghanistan thanks, at least partly, to improved security provided by his Soldiers.
"The future of Afghanistan is shining. If you visit the downtown of any city you will see new people, new ideas and new opportunities," said Safi. "If you look back nine years ago there was no army, police, construction, constitution, roads and education. Everything has progressed!"
As the sergeant major of the Afghan National Army Safi has represented and fought for the welfare of Afghan Soldiers. His accomplishments include: developing the spirit de corp in the ANA by creating a creed as well as a Soldier of the Year and Best Warrior Competition; developing and instituting tasks required for Soldiers professional development and advancement; creating the position of safety sergeant major; pushing to fill key senior enlisted positions; pushing junior Soldiers through the sergeant's academy to create future leaders; and assisting in the development of a literacy program throughout the Afghan army.