By Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 12, 2008 - Police mentor team "Patriot" visits its assigned Afghan National Police stations daily. The mentors tend to ask the same questions about pay, personnel, weapons and equipment. They coach the police to solve any problems on the spot, paving the way to an Afghan solution. Patriot is one of many police mentor teams assigned to Regional Police Advisory Command South, part of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. The team's mission is to train, advise and mentor the Afghan National Police in 10 districts of Kandahar City.
Team members say they aren't there to give the Afghan police officers anything except advice, support and back-up. If the Afghan National Police request fuel for their generators, the mentor team asks if they have been filling out and submitting fuel-consumption reports. If they ask about uniforms or weapons, the team asks if they have made the request through the Afghan provincial headquarters.
Police mentor teams play a key role in a program called "focused district development," aimed at enhancing Afghan National Police capabilities. The program's goals involve developing the police into a professional, well-disciplined force for the people of Afghanistan and the nation's interests, officials said.
Focused district development starts at one of four regional training centers dedicated to the program. District police receive eight weeks of police training while a special Afghan police unit fills in for them in their district. The training at the regional centers includes basic and advanced police training, survivability training and district-specific training. When they return to their districts to work, the mentor teams work to help the training take root.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Judson and his team mentor the police in 10 districts in Kandahar City; each police station employs an average of 40 to 45 police officers. Of those districts, four have men currently attending FDD training at the Kandahar regional training center. When the police return, Judson and his team will start the training and mentoring phase.
"We have a six-week plan of sustainment training," Judson said. "We know what they are teaching them at the RTC, and we will reinforce that training on the ground."
Judson and the rest of his team started assessing his district police before they went to the RTC. He said it wasn't easy, because the men had no police training. With the results of the assessment, the police mentor team can gauge the districts' progress, he said.
During a typical visit to a police station or checkpoint, the mentor team ensures the police have enough men for security of the station, weapons, uniforms and equipment. They also check on basic needs, such as living conditions and food.
"We can't just give them what they need," Judson said. "We have to mentor them on requesting things through their channels. We advise them of processes that work for us, and they find solutions that work for them."
Judson said his visits build relationships, making it easier to mentor and advise the Afghan National Police through problems.
The teams also schedule time to work on sustainment training with the police. Each district has a different mission. The police mentor teams for the districts outside of the city work with police who are tasked with a more combat-oriented mission.
Army Capt. Greg Lockhart works with police in a district in which the primary mission is counterinsurgency. The Afghan National Police there have attended focused district development training, but Lockhart said there is still more work to be done.
"We have seen significant improvements in their community policing abilities since they have returned from FDD training," Lockhart said. "They received some combat skills training, but they still need some work in defending themselves against attacks."
In Lockhart's district of responsibility, the police carry more of a combat role. The mentor team augments the police on missions that sometimes include combat.
The mentor teams aren't training the Afghan National Police to seek out the enemy and get into a fight, Lockhart said. "We are trying to teach them basic combat skills to protect them once they are engaged by the enemy."
Lockhart, Judson and the other PMT members in Kandahar report to Regional Police Advisory Command South.
The feedback helps improve the training at the regional training center, Judson said, but each mission is different.
"It's a different mission inside the city," he explained. "Our ANP deal with more community policing, whereas the teams outside of Kandahar City deal more with counterinsurgency. There really isn't one way of doing things -- it's live and learn."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)