Jan. 7, 2008 - Eight Afghan National Army weapons specialists have graduated from the first Commando Armorer Training Program. The eight-week course, conducted at the commando garrison here, taught students the unique aspects of commando special weapons. Student armorers learn to inspect, repair and reassemble all weapons systems used by the Afghan army's commando kandaks, the equivalent of U.S. Army battalions.
Upon completing the course, armorers must be technically proficient and able to troubleshoot weapon malfunctions to support commandos in the field, officials said. Armorers must be able to identify faults and make extensive repairs on all special weapons systems the commandos use, including several types of hand guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns. They also must become experts on the more than 300 weapon-specific tools necessary to repair them.
During the two-month course, students completed hours of classroom instruction and practical exercises. Although all ANA soldiers are capable of correcting minor problems with their individual weapons, the commando armorers must become familiar with the intricate details of each weapon system, learning how to completely disassemble each weapon to its smallest components, and put it back together correctly.
"The course is not only physically strenuous, it is mentally demanding," one ANA commando student said. Students are faced with different scenarios where fellow commandos present a variety of damaged weapons. The students must quickly troubleshoot the problem, repair the weapon and explain how to prevent future malfunctions. Students also must complete paperwork required to track the maintenance on each of the kandak's weapons.
"The final test is called 'the bag test'," explained Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman. "Twelve different NATO and Russian weapon systems are disassembled and placed into a duffle bag. The armorers have a set time to reassemble more than 150 weapon parts and conduct a function check on each assembled weapon system. This truly demonstrates their complete understanding and mastery of the equipment.
"Upon graduation, armorers are responsible for the complete inventory and maintenance of all special equipment assigned to their company," Belcher addedsaid. "With more than 200 weapons per company, being an armorer is no small responsibility. These graduates are up to the challenge and eager to assume the vital role of supporting their companies in combat.," he said.
Two students, selected as honor graduate and distinguished honor graduate for their exceptionally meritorious performance during the course, received certificates and an specially engraved multi-function tool to commemorate their achievement.
"These commandos represent some of the most intelligent and talented soldiers in the ANA," an ANA commander said. "Their ability to take the knowledge learned in this class and train their fellow commandos makes them one of the greatest assets in the Commando Kandak."
(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)