By Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 29, 2008 - More than 200 students processed into the regional training center here July 19 for focused district development training, a program to create a professional and well-trained police force for Afghanistan, district by district. Afghan National Police and Afghan civilians handled the processing with help from Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan mentors.
Although the coalition mentors serving as subject-matter experts were on hand to advise their Afghan counterparts, the process was almost completely Afghan-led.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Sheila Pearson, a recruiting mentor and Konduz processing team leader, explained that the team's goal is to help Afghan National Police leaders develop a sturdy processing system for police training, which leads to a trustworthy force.
"The goal to cleanse the ANP is started here at the [regional training center]," she said. "By cleanse, I mean to make sure the people the ANP are recruiting and training are good, trustworthy people. This is the start of that progression."
She said that having this process led by Afghans is the first step in building trust in the police force for the people of Afghanistan.
"Being responsible for the screening, training them correctly and then sending them back out into the community so the people can trust them and believe in them, is a huge step," she said.
During their enrollment, the students meet with an Afghan personnel representative who collects their individual data, then assigns them a processing number. This number, along with the personnel information, is used to track the students at the training center.
Once the students finish with the personnel representative, the Afghan ID card team collects additional information. They check their database to determine whether the student already has a national identification card and verify the expiration date as applicable. If the student does not have a national ID, more personal data is collected.
The students also go through a medical screening for basic vital signs, sight and hearing tests, immunizations, and a drug screening. Based on the results of the medical screening, an Afghan doctor makes a recommendation on qualification or disqualification.
The students also undergo a biometrics screening, which compares unique physical traits of the students to a criminal database. As part of the biometrics screening, the students have their photos, fingerprints, handprints and irises scanned by a Ministry of Interior biometrics team.
Army Sergeant Wayne Demar, a Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan biometrics coordinator, said the screening benefits the Afghan National Police in more ways than just tracking students.
"I think the biometrics screening process works as a deterrent," he said. "If these men know that the system will identify anyone who has committed any crimes, it will deter the criminals from trying to enter the force."
After the biometrics screening, Air Force Capt. Sam Shimp, finance reform officer for the security transition command, talks with the students to determine any pay issues. He also gives the students a finance briefing, letting them know what pay to expect while they are in training and when they return to their districts.
He said electronic funds transfer, which deposits salaries directly into bank accounts, is a way to cut down on pay disbursement problems inside the force.
"Their previous pay-by-list system, in which one person collects and distributes money for the group, wasn't ideal. By the time the money reached the students, it wasn't the full amount they were owed," Shimp said. "Now, 17 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan have [electronic funds transfer], and it's effective, because it cuts down on the corruption of money changing hands."
Lastly, students receive new uniforms, boots and other gear. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William Sciarretta, logistics superintendent, said the police officers who work at the regional training center are responsible for issuing the gear, while he oversees the process.
"This time, we tried to hold them responsible for the process," Sciarretta said. "The questions they ask show they understand the process."
Sciarretta also considers the new uniforms and gear to be another way the Afghan National Police will gain trust from the people of Afghanistan.
"This not only standardizes the force, but brings it up to a certain standard. It gives them a greater capability to defend themselves, as well as a better image," he said.
Afghan National Police Col. Hadid Khan, Konduz training commander, echoed the mentors' sentiments.
"We are a team, and we are working together and helping to improve the police together," Hadid said. "Our country is different, because some people linked with the enemy try to join the police. This system will find the bad people and keep them from our force. The people of Afghanistan will understand that."
While a district's police officers spend two months in focused district development training, highly trained Afghan National Civil Order Police fill in for them in their district. When the newly trained police return to their district, coalition mentors help them apply their training.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)