By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 3, 2007 - The Afghan National Army is developing into a professional force, and its soldiers have the will to fight and, if need be, die for their country, the top enlisted leader in U.S. Central Command said. Marine Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey A. Morin, senior enlisted leader for U.S. Central Command, said during an interview Aug. 1 that he has been impressed with the Afghan National Army and its nascent noncommissioned officer corps.
The 39,000 members of the Afghan National Army are a group of soldiers with an extreme will to fight, Morin said. "They are developing nationalism; they are a national army -- across tribes, across ethnicities, across everything," he said. "They are eager learners, and we partner up with them extremely well."
Afghan leaders see the way NCOs are valued in the American forces, and they are working to develop an NCO corps on the lines of the American model.
But there are challenges, Morin said. School was not a priority for people engaged in 30 years of war, so many Afghan men are illiterate. This poses problems for technical skills, especially needed to supply an army or to keep its vehicles and weapons functioning. "They are addressing that," Morin said.
But the forces make up for that with enthusiasm, he added. "You don't have to look for them when it's time to go out on patrol," he said. "They definitely have the desire and the will to build an effective armed force. They are well on their way to becoming a self-reliant, self-defending force."
Experience is all that is needed to create an effective NCO corps, he said. "The Afghan National Army is four or five years old," he said. "They need maturity and experience to build NCOs. You don't do that in such a short time. I've been in the Marine Corps going on 30 years; it took me four or five years to make the rank of NCO."
Experience in leading their soldiers and helping mold their officers will be key to the new Afghan NCO corps, Morin said. "You only get maturity and experience by time served, boots on the ground," he said. "You can't make up for that with classroom instruction or in school. Every day they get better, because they are gaining experience."
Morin said he was touched by something Sergeant Major of the Afghan National Army Roshan Safi told him. "He said that in three to five years, he hoped the Afghan army could join us as a coalition member elsewhere in the world as a payment, a thank you for freeing them in Afghanistan," Morin said. "That speaks volumes for their drive to build an armed force that is self-reliant."