War on Terrorism

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

U.S., French Soldiers Train Afghan Artillerymen

By Army Spc. Matthew Thompson
Special to American Forces Press Service

May 20, 2009 - Five Afghan National Army forward observers completed a 30-day training program with the 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Airborne here. The class, which graduated May 5, was the first of the year, with more scheduled for the near future, officials said.

A forward observer is a soldier responsible for calling for fire, serving as the eyes for indirect-fire assets. During the training, Afghan, French and U.S. forward observers worked together to instruct, train and learn from each other.

A French operational mentor liaison team trained with the Afghan artillery on how to call for fire, perform combat patrols and conduct checkpoints.

"We're just adding to their program," said U.S. Army Master Sgt. David C. Rogers, a master gunner with 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment. "We're partnering in a different way than the French, being that we have a different howitzer to use."

With help from the 4-25th, the Afghan army's cannoneers were able to learn more about field artillery, since the U.S. Army uses more advanced equipment, such as the M777 Howitzer.

"It was very useful to work with the other armies," said Lt. Sayed Hamed, a field artillery officer with the Afghan army's 4th Battalion. "It was very good training, and we learned a lot of new things."

Calling for fire was something the Afghan observers weren't accustomed to doing, Rogers said.

"We had the [forward observers] calling back to their cannons for the first time," Rogers said. "They are used to shooting direct fire instead of indirect fire."

The partnership first was established between U.S. and Afghan forces four months ago when the Afghans came to visit FOB Airborne. It didn't take long for the soldiers from the two countries to become friends.

"Within 15 minutes, they were split up into various groups, laughing, looking through the sights and talking about the ammunition with each other, without knowing what the other one was saying," Rogers said with a chuckle.

The trainers were fortunate to have a class that was well educated, Rogers said, adding that while a group of five might seem insignificant, their ability to share their new-found knowledge is expected to have a significant impact for the Afghan army as a whole.

"We learned a lot," Hamed said. "The things we learned here we can use to teach to our units."

Helping the Afghan soldiers makes his mission all the more worthwhile, Rogers said.

"Knowing the Afghans will take this training and eventually be able to manage on their own as a country has been the most rewarding part of this training," he said.

(Army Spc. Matthew Thompson serves with the 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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