FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan --
On a damp and cloudy Kajaki morning, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment Police Advisory Team, drove up a steep mountainside and across a road atop the Kajaki Dam to instruct a rifle marksmanship class for Afghan Uniformed Police officers, April 19.
The class was part of a larger effort by the Marines to prepare the Afghan National Security Forces to take full responsibility of security operations in Kajaki and the surrounding areas.
The Army units in the Kajaki have reached a point where they operate independently, and the Afghan Uniformed Police are striving to attain the same level of independence.
Staff Sgt. Gregory Sanders said when he first assumed his role as Afghan National Army advisor of Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, the local ANA forces were completely dependent on help from the Marines.
“When we first got here, the ANA did very little training on their own,” Sanders said. “They would very rarely go on patrols by themselves.”
Sanders said in a few short months, the ANA forces developed to a point where they are now capable of working completely independent of the Marines, logistically and operationally.
The progress came as a result of hard work and training between the Marines and ANA soldiers. Sanders employed a variety of techniques to help the ANA become more self-reliant and build their confidence.
Sanders said one of the most effective training methods he used was to gather the ANA leaders the day before scheduled training. Sanders would train the ANA sergeants and squad leaders until they were proficient enough to train their own soldiers while Marines merely supervised.
Sergeant Joshua V. Armstrong, a team leader serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, Police Advisory Team 1, works with the Afghan Uniformed Police. The PAT patrols and trains with the AUP in an effort to help them develop the same level of independence as the ANA.
Armstrong, a native of Timber Hills, N.C., and his Marines acted as instructors for the rifle range April 19, but the class was about more than developing marksmanship skills – it also gave their leaders a chance to lead by example.
Hajii Zahir Jan, the assistant chief of police for the Kajaki AUP, joined his men at the rifle range. He took some tips and pointers from the Marines on his firing techniques, and then helped the Marines instruct and encourage the other Afghan officers.
“Hajii Zahir Jan is one of the top ranking AUP,” said Armstrong. “It’s always a good thing to see him step up as a leader like that. The AUP respond really strongly to that.”
The officers fired AK-47s in sitting, kneeling, and prone positions, while Marines evaluated their performance and gave them pointers along the way.
Armstrong said that marksmanship is just a part of the bigger picture in preparing the AUP to take on greater responsibilities.
“One of the most important things to do is to get them to a point where they can train their own new recruits,” he said. “We need to make them confident so that when they get new recruits and they take over security, they won’t be hesitant. It won’t be anything new or different for them.”
Editor's Note: The Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment are currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6, which is a part of Task Force Leatherneck. First Marine Division (Forward) heads Task Force Leatherneck, the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest), and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.