ZHARAY DISTRICT, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan--Throughout the past ten years, Soldiers have understood that the key to success in Afghanistan is partnership. Soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Task Force Spartan), have been deployed to Kandahar province since April 2011, and partnered with Afghan security forces in every operation, both lethally and non-lethally.
Soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, are partnered with their Afghan counterparts in the 3rd Kandak of the 3rd Brigade, 205th Afghan Army Corps in all missions over the past eight months. All their combat operations and humanitarian aid missions are partnered.
Recently, Afghan Soldiers in the 3rd Kandak and Soldiers with 2-87 Infantry worked together to synchronize non-lethal operations. They learned how to run a brigade staff effectively through weekly classes taught by 2-87 Infantry Soldiers.
"The intent with the (Afghan National Army) partnership (is to) enable them to conduct operations unilaterally without U.S. presence," said Maj. Arieyeh Austin, the 2-87 Infantry Executive Officer.
Even though brigade staff officers work behind the scenes, they play a vital role in success on the battlefield.
Various staff sections are responsible for the planning and organization of combat operations. Without a well-coordinated and well-informed plan, a mission will not function, which could cost Soldiers their lives. Brigade and battalion staffs are responsible for the coordination of information to ensure effective missions. The staff classes help ANA Soldiers become better at their jobs as staff officers, which in turn improves operations across the entire kandak.
"Our job is to get their (Tactical Operations Center) up and running with minimal U.S. presence," said Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Rowell, the operations noncommissioned officer for 2-87 Infantry, of the classes he and Maj. Austin taught to ANA staff officers.
Staff sections gather information on the enemy and the local people, and then organize that information and plan out the most effective methods of destroying the enemy and protecting the people. From there, they task company-level leadership with future operations, and Soldiers on the ground execute the mission. Since it is often confusing at first to plan operations over the entire battle space, the staff section classes were broken down to teach the individual elements of operational planning.
"They have had a class on battle rhythm, they have had classes on patrol trackers, and they have had classes on the purpose of brigade staff," said Rowell.
Soldiers in 3rd Kandak have had great success so far in partnering with 2-87 Infantry Soldiers, and become continually more self-reliant.
"The more that we teach their staff how to operate, the less we have to be involved with partnered operations," Austin said. "We have already (transferred authority of) one of our pieces of tactical infrastructure to be run completely by (Afghan National Security Forces)."
The continued partnership and training of Afghan Soldiers, has allowed them to become more independent; however, they still have a long way to go until they are a completely stable, self-sufficient fighting force.
"(We want to get) the staff to the point where they can task and purpose the individual companies to execute operations on their own," Austin said.
In the most recent class, about 15 Afghan staff officers crowded into the kandak's conference room to learn how military intelligence works with the plans section of a battalion. Maj. Austin taught them how to plan operations using nothing but a map, and the information gathered that week by the military intelligence officer. The Afghan Soldiers worked with him to plan operations for the week, while coordinating how to get them accomplished that week.
Aside from work partnerships, the Afghan Army and 2-87 Infantry Soldiers have built a friendship and enjoy working together. The two units often have meals together and regularly schedule time to relax and have fun together.
"I love our partners, we have the best kandak, God bless Afghanistan," said Austin.