By Spc. Micah E. Clare, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 7, 2008 - A graduation ceremony for a new breed of Afghan National Army soldiers was held here Feb. 27 as a sign of a renewed shift of focus to the part of the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan that doesn't involve combat. More than 30 Afghan army 203rd Corps soldiers graduated from a 14-day course called Afghan Information Dissemination Operations course, or AIDO, where they learned skills useful for dealing with media, taking population surveys, engaging face to face with local leaders, providing humanitarian aid and conducting loudspeaker operations.
"The information age has changed the face of war," said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Kramer, a mobile tactical trainer from 324th Psychological Operations Company. "Now these AIDO soldiers are trained and able to go out and tell the Afghans the truth that the (Afghan government) and security forces are for the civilians and their safety."
Most of the soldiers who volunteered for service in Information Dissemination Operations already had experienced protecting the people they serve as Afghan army infantrymen, Kramer explained. "We expected them to be mature soldiers," he said.
They also had to be able to read and write fluently in either Dari or Pashto, the two major languages of Afghanistan, to be able to interact with their country's ethnically diverse population.
Interacting face to face with this population is an important part of winning them over, Afghan Col. Sayed Waqifshah, the religious and cultural advisor to 203rd Corps, said.
"The soldier's job is to fight the enemy," he explained. "This doesn't always mean shooting them. While all AIDO soldiers are good fighters, fighting is what tears us as a people apart. It is much better for us to go to our people and talk with them first."
The soldiers' final training task was to handle a humanitarian-aid drop to area residents, where they proved their proficiency and dedication to their new job.
"These classes were a necessity," Shaw said. "AIDO will be a great asset to the ANA and the future of Afghanistan."
(Army Spc. Micah E. Clare serves with the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)