117th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
TARIN KOT, Afghanistan - Soldiers of the Afghan National Army have been working with Soldiers from the Mississippi Army National Guard’s 288th Sapper Company to enhance security in Uruzgan province by training on route clearance techniques and other advanced combat engineer skills.
“When we first got here we assessed [the ANA] and then began training them on the basics of engineering, like clearing minefields, doing route clearance [operations] and showing them what to look for and not to look for” said Spc. Joseph Zachary Chesnut, a combat engineer with the company.
The ANA soldiers have often been eager to learn and incorporate those skills and knowledge into their daily operations.
“They grasp that it is a dangerous job and is important, and they ask questions all the time,” said Chesnut. “The fact that they retain and implement the training is a huge success.”
Each day provides a new challenge and an opportunity to hone valuable skills. The unit and their ANA counterparts are often the go-to element when it comes to missions in their area.
Recently, because of they are partnered with the ANA, who have explosive ordnance disposal technicians within their ranks, the unit and their ANA counterparts have been called out by the Afghan National Police to assist with roadside bombs that have been found, said Army 2nd Lt. Alex Armstrong, a platoon leader with the 288th Sapper Co.
As the missions unfold the ANA have been taking the lead.
“In the last few months we have been taking the ANA out and evaluating them while they are on the route, putting them in the lead,” Chesnut said.
“Our biggest role is to assist and watch them take care of it and mentor and correct as needed,” Armstrong said.
Each ANA soldier is bolstered with the capability to clear dangerous areas and help save innocent lives.
“I appreciate learning from the 288th and am happy to be working with the Americans,” said ANA 1st Lt. Ismatullah, Route Clearance Company, 4th Brigade, 205th Corps. “I have learned how to make sure the IED (improvised explosive device) has blown up and get rid of them easily.”
These skills will become irreplaceable to the ANA as coalition forces begin to withdraw from Afghanistan.
“The template for how they conduct a route clearance mission and the skill sets of combat engineering will stay with the ANA after we leave,” said Chesnut. “This will allow them the ability to think through a problem before they act.”
While the ANA are continuing to develop vital skill sets, their relationship with the ANP strengthens.
“We have introduced the ANA and ANP commanders to each other and got them working together,” said Armstrong. “That way when we leave, they will know that there are Afghans with the same capabilities as Americans.”
“Things that they have learned to rely on from us for the past ten years they now know they can rely on their own security forces for,” said Armstrong.
This shows the people that as they grow as a country, they can count on each other for support.