By Army Pvt. Melissa Stewart
Special to American Forces Press Service
Afghanistan, March 23, 2009 - Artillerymen from France and the United States teamed up to teach their Afghan counterparts how to operate American artillery weapons March 14 at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan. Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, and French soldiers from the 35th Airborne Artillery taught the course.
"Our mission was to bring the ANA over with the French and to show them our indirect field artillery piece," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul Fluharty, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, 4-25 FA. "It is very important that they learn this because they need to begin to assume responsibility when we leave [Afghanistan]."
Afghan soldiers were instructed on the use of the M777A2 Howitzer.
"The lesson today was very interesting because there are differences between our weapons and American weapons," said Afghan army Capt. Mohammad Dean, company commander for 1st Brigade 4th Kandak Artillery. "American guns are very modern."
This training was not just a learning experience for the Afghan soldiers, but for the U.S. and French soldiers as well. Many of the U.S. soldiers teaching were junior enlisted experiencing their first interaction of this sort with the Afghans.
"The U.S. soldiers get to work with and teach soldiers from other countries, and also learn a little bit about their culture," Fluharty said.
French troops also assisted in training Afghan artillery troops, and soon will train the Afghan soldiers on their artillery weapons.
"For me it's a new experience; it's my first time in Afghanistan," French Capt. Franck Petitfils, company commander for the 35th Airborne Artillery, said. "It's good for me and my guys to get some experience. The ANA seem to listen to what we are teaching and are happy to learn."
The training provided by the U.S. and French soldiers is designed to help the Afghan National Army become a stabilizing force in their country, officials said.
"We have learned from other countries, and I am very confident we can shoot the big guns," Dean said. "The ANA are becoming the backbone of stability in Afghanistan. I am proud to be part of that."
(Army Pvt. Melissa Stewart serves with the 10th Mountain's Division 4th Brigade.)