War on Terrorism

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pennsylvania Army National Guard’s unique partnership strengthens Afghan Army

By Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Bahret
Combined Joint Task Force 101

PAKTYA, Afghanistan (1/26/11) – National Guard and coalition soldiers are working with Afghan counterparts all over Afghanistan, but every now and then, a particularly successful military partnership stands out from the crowd.

Senior Enlisted Advisor Army Sgt. Maj. Ron Maraffi, with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Joint Forces HQ Stability-Transition team, and civilian contractor, Tony Humphreys of Pittsburgh, Pa., have partnered with Afghan National Army Col. Mohammad Asif at the 203rd Thunder Corps.

Asif, the corps’ G-5 education officer is not your typical Afghan officer. He speaks fluent English and he speaks passionately about both education and democracy in Afghanistan.

“If you have some education you must help others,” said Asif. “(Afghan soldiers) need us. Many of our soldiers are coming from areas with no schools. It’s the first time many have seen beds, bathrooms or used either hot water or electricity.”

With the assistance of Humphreys and Maraffi, Asif oversees a myriad of courses at the Afghan Army’s 203rd Thunder Corps. His soldiers teach everything from NATO weapons and first-aid to the basic training course.

“We have been very, very effective,” said Humphreys. “The 203rd Corps is the only corps in Afghanistan able to train at this level.”

Humphrey’s has been in Afghanistan as a contractor with World Wide Language Resources for the last two years. He has mentored several officers and he claims to have seen tremendous progress.

“I have seen a big difference since 2008.” he said. We have trained over 11,000 soldiers,”

Maraffi is proud of the corps’ successes.

“It’s rewarding to work with the training team and to see the progress that the ANA is making,” said Maraffi.

In addition to military training, Asif and his team oversee literacy programs that offer many Afghan soldiers their first formal education in a lifetime of war.

The violent past of many of his soldiers weighs heavily on Asif’s mind.

“Our nation, especially its economy was destroyed by Russians, then civil war, and finally the Taliban,” said Asif.

Despite the violence of the past, Asif is hopeful for the future. He sees the presence of coalition forces in his country as an opportunity.

“We will learn from (coalition nations) and make our nation better than before,” said Asif.

Humphreys agrees with this sentiment. He speaks passionately about a secure and vibrant Afghanistan while trying to envision the future.

“I’m looking at the big picture, what’s the end state?” asks Humphreys. He offers it as a question, but the determination on his face suggests that he may already know the answer.

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