TARIN KOT, Afghanistan (July 10, 2012) -- Local soldiers of the Afghan National Army are enhancing security in Uruzgan province by learning invaluable lessons from their coalition counterparts.
Afghan National Army, or ANA, soldiers have been working together with Soldiers from the 288th Sapper Company, (Hilltoppers), Mississippi Army National Guard in a mentoring program designed to give ANA soldiers advanced combat engineer skills.
Operating out of Multinational Base Tarin Kot, they participated in a successful route clearance mission July 7, 2012.
"When we first got here we assessed [the ANA] and then began training them on the basics of engineering, like clearing minefields, doing route clearance [operations] and showing them what to look for and not to look for" said Spc. Joseph Zachary Chesnut, 288th Sapper Company.
The ANA appreciate the skills they are learning, show their eagerness to learn and incorporate new knowledge into the battle space.
"They grasp that it is a dangerous job and is important, and they ask questions all the time," said Chesnut. "The fact that they retain and implement the training is a huge success."
Each day provides a new challenge to the ANA and an opportunity to hone valuable skills.
"Today we have received a call from the ANP (Afghan National Police) who have an IED (improvised explosive device) cordoned off," said 2nd Lt. Alex Armstrong, platoon leader, 1st Platoon, 288th Sapper Company. "We have been tasked with the mission because we have ANA with us and they will be bringing their EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) tech."
As the mission unfolds the ANA take control.
"In the last few months we have been taking the ANA out and evaluating them while they are on the route, putting them in the lead," Chesnut said.
"Our biggest role is to assist and watch them take care of it and mentor and correct as needed," Armstrong said.
Each ANA soldier is bolstered with the capability to clear dangerous areas and help save innocent lives.
"I appreciate learning from the 288th and am happy to be working with the Americans," said Afghan National Army 1st Lt. Ismatullah, Route Clearance Company, 4th Brigade, 205th Corps. "I have learned how to make sure the IED has blown up and get rid of them easily."
These skills will become irreplaceable to the ANA as coalition forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan.
The template for how they conduct a route clearance mission and the skill sets of combat engineering will stay with the ANA after we leave," said Chesnut. "This will allow them the ability to think through a problem before they act."
While the ANA are continuing to develop vital skill sets, their relationship with the Afghan National Police, or ANP, strengthens.
"We have introduced the ANA and ANP commanders to each other and got them working together," said Armstrong. "That way when we leave, they will know that there are Afghans with the same capabilities as Americans."
"Things that they have learned to rely on from us for the past ten years they now know they can rely on their own security forces for," said Armstrong.
This shows the people that as they grow as a country, they can count on each other for support.