Special to American Forces Press Service
Afghanistan, Dec. 14, 2007 - Americans in Afghanistan recently helped the Afghan Border Police in eastern Khowst improve their capabilities by training them to effectively fire Soviet-designed machine guns. Two Army infantrymen assigned to an Afghan Border Police mentor team gave a hands-on class to familiarize them with a PKM machine gun.
With Army Sgt. Jeremiah K. Stafford, of Charleston, S.C., demonstrating, Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey E. Mohr, from Iowa City, Iowa, taught the ins and outs of the PKM through an interpreter. Stafford took the weapon apart a couple times, and Mohr explained the purpose of the pieces. Mohr ensured the men in the class understood how the weapon functions and required them to demonstrate their knowledge.
Mohr and Stafford observed each border police officer successfully clear the PKM of ammunition, disassemble and reassemble it, and perform a function and safety check. Before they were allowed to fire the machine gun, each Afghan Border Police officer was required to do the same on the firing line.
When the ABP arrived at the firing line on the improvised firing range later the same day, the ABP demonstrated function and safety checks. If they made mistakes, they were required to repeat the steps until they did so without errors.
As they passed their basic skills, each border police officer was given 50 rounds and two different targets to shoot at, one about 100 meters out and the other about 150. All seemed eager to shoot, quickly volunteering to be next. Some fired more accurately than others, and the mentors took notice.
The American soldiers recognized a need to have Afghan Border Police assigned as primary and alternate machine gunners so as to make effective use of the ABP company's weapons. The marksmanship class gave them and the Afghan leaders a starting point to decide who should be assigned as primary and alternate machine gunners.
The next morning, team leader Army Capt. John T. Boyd, of Cranford, N.J.; Army 1st Lt. Robin C. Crumpler, from Beulaville, N.C.; and Army Master Sgt. Jeffrey P. Lowe, from York, Pa.; met with the Afghan Border Police company commander, 1st Lt. Kamal Shah, to advise on organizational structure, such as squad leader and machine gunner assignments.
"He needs to task-organize his company," Boyd said. "That's a good start to develop leaders."
While Shah was mentored, Mohr and Stafford observed the other border police thoroughly cleaning the PKM machine guns they fired during police training. Mohr and Stafford also discussed with the Afghan Border Police acting noncommissioned officer, Mohammad Ayoub Khan, and other soldiers the potential assignment of machine gunners and alternates.
Stafford recommended the high shooter as the designated PKM shooter. Stafford explained that he is the primary .50-caliber machine gunner, and Spc. Jerry Thompson of Smithfield, N.C., is the designated M240 machine gunner with their mentor team. About once a month, they give a class to all the team members so they all are able to pick up the machine guns and operate them if necessary. Stafford said that the designated PKM machine gunners also should give regular machine gun classes to their fellow border police.
Before the mentors left the border control point that morning, Shah had agreed with his NCO on assignments of squad leaders and machine gunners. Literally overnight the ABP went from having only riflemen to having a platoon structure with trained and equipped machine gunners.
(Marine Staff Sgt. Luis P. Valdespino Jr. is assigned to Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs.)