By Spc. Edward Garibay, 16th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentMarch 19, 2011
MIRABAD VALLEY, Afghanistan - For the past five months, a group of Afghan National Army soldiers have been working with a company of Australian Army infantrymen and learning the finer points of ground warfare.
The men of Combat Team B, 2nd Mentoring Task Force, Combined Team Uruzgan, have been preparing their ANA counterparts to take over a brand new base in eastern Mirabad Valley, Afghanistan.
"We're trying to work ourselves out of a job," said Australian Army Lt. Christian J. Johnston, Afghan mentor team leader for Combat Team B, 2nd MTF, CTU. "We're trying to work ourselves into a position where we're not needed anymore."
Johnston said the new base, Patrol Base Mohammed, will be completely ANA led. Australian mentors will be present on the base for the first few weeks, but from there the base will be run completely Afghan National Security Forces.
PB Mohammed began construction mid-February and since then the ANA unit Johnston mentors, 3rd Company, 3rd Kandak (Battalion), 4th Brigade, 205th Corps Afghan National Army, has conducted a number of un-partnered patrols through Mirabad Valley. Their Australian mentors would at times provide overwatch security from the mountaintops, but the actual patrols were successfully executed and completed solely by ANA troops and their leadership.
"To see them doing these patrols to a pretty good standard, prior to us leaving - it fills me with a lot of confidence that they'll be okay by themselves out here." Said Johnston, an Adelaide, South Australia, native. "Their probably 200 percent better than when we got them."
The mentoring team worked in small steps to bring the ANA to the level of proficiency they're at now, said Australian Army Sgt. Mark Manousso, team sergeant for the mentoring team.
The first step was to instruct the ANA soldiers with their noncommissioned officers observing and work towards having the Afghan NCOs instruct themselves.
Manousso, a Brisbane, Queensland, native, said once the ANA leadership actually began teaching infantry tactics to their troops, they were able to take effective command in the field because their soldiers' placed new faith in them.
"We have more control over our soldiers," said ANA 1st Lt. Mirwais Amiri, infantry platoon commander for 3rd Co., 3rd Kandak, 4th Brig. "I can see my infantry soldiers have become better with the training from the Australian Army."
Manousso said one of the key things the ANA have learned is map reading, an important skill when preparing battle plans, directing artillery strikes and calling for medical assistance - all of the things necessary to be a self-sufficient army.
"They've come a hell of a long way," said Manousso.