By Christen N. McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
April 12, 2010 - The NATO training mission in Afghanistan is working with Afghan commandos on the road to self-sufficiency.
"We do have a lot of challenges here, but a gem in the Afghan Army are the commandos," Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, the organization's deputy commander for Army forces, said during an April 10 "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.
Hogg described the commandos as "high-end" fighters. Seven commando battalions perform the entire spectrum of military work, he said, including increasing counter-insurgency capabilities.
"They do the full spectrum that would you expect from a high-end light infantry force," he said.
The commandos are considered an elite force, and they're trained in advanced infantry skills as well as being skilled in tactics. They also have a low attrition rate, Hogg said, because they are paid more than other soldiers, they're partnered with other forces, and they have a more predictable work schedule.
"It is all about honor and being a part of Afghanistan," he said. "They say, 'It's my country and my duty to serve.' They believe in their country."
The training mission is trying to do more to recruit commandos. Recruiters are going out to the leaders in the Afghan community for recommendations and are advertising.
"We are going to target more folks from the southern sector to come into the army," Hogg said, noting that area is less well represented in the army's ranks than the north.
Hogg said 8,000 new recruits joined the army in December, and that he'd like to maintain those numbers on the recruiting front.
"The recruiting is going good," he said, but he acknowledged that some historically tough recruiting times are ahead. With more agricultural and seasonal jobs opening, he said, he hopes to still be able to reach the goal of 134,000 soldiers in the Afghan army. Afghanistan currently has 112,700 soldiers.
"We are making a lot of progress," Hogg said, "but we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. I think the operations that will happen are an indication of the direction we are heading."
The bloggers roundtable was held in conjunction with the 2010 Milblog Conference, which brought together military bloggers and supporters to discuss the rewards and challenges of social media in a military environment. Price Floyd, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, participated in the question-and-answer session. Floyd asked Hogg about the role of blogging and social media in Afghanistan, and whether deployed servicemembers are encouraged to participate in social media.
Hogg replied that Army Lt. Gen. William V. Caldwell IV, commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, is a strong proponent of social media and blogs.
"It is absolutely encouraged to blog," Hogg said. "Social networking [and] blogging is a big deal for the command, and that is because General Caldwell has made it a big deal for us, and it is a way to educate and inform what we are doing out there."