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Lessons on Training the ANA

March 30, 2011 | Sergeant Neal Murray

One of our missions as an FTF platoon is to train a squad of Afghan National Army, so I thought a post about how this process is going and what we have learned might be an appropriate subject for discussion.

When we first arrived in theatre, we were not very impressed with our Afghan counterparts. They seemed poorly motivated, physically out of shape and, what is more, completely apathetic about improving themselves as soldiers. The unit we replaced, the FTF of 3-101, had to physically guide them on mission, holding them by the shoulder as they entered and cleared rooms. While the ANA did provide valueable assistance in taking care of women and children, one got the impression that they were a long way away from being able to "stand up" as a real fighting force. As a result, our unit felt bitter about the whole deal and made some mistakes in our dealings with the ANA. Because there is no better teaching tool than failure, I hope readers who find themselves in a similar mission in Afghanistan might benefit from this advice.

The first thing we screwed up was communication. Informing the ANA  of an upcoming mission or training event was treated like an unpleasant detail which, like all details of this sort, fell upon a private to perform, in this case PFC Moore. So we had a situation where a PFC in the American Army was telling a SGM in the Afghan Army what needed to take place. My advice to units that are assigned to ANA is to respect their chain of command. Your PSG should deal with their PSG; your SGTs should deal with their SGTS; your PVTS with their PVTS.  If they have officers, salute them - why not?

Another thing to consider with the ANA is  how they are incorporated in your unit, so that their structure is embedded under and included inside your structure. In other words, instead of just keeping the ANA in their regular squad or platoon, assign specific ANA to your own squads. Not only does this division make it easier to have accountability of the ANA, since you have a set few soldiers to whom you are always assigned, it also helps to foster a spirit of competition within the ANA. Alpha wants to be better then Bravo and Charlie and vice versa for the other teams. This dynamic has improved their performance to a considerable degree. The ANA does not care about impressing Americans, because we are just visitors who will leave in a year. But they do care about impressing and gaining the approval and respect of their peers, since they are more permenant.

Enough stress cannot be placed on how effective competition can be as a training tool for the ANA. These soldiers come from a culture where young men struggle to gain distinction, since so much public attention is paid to elder males.  When you train with ANA, train them all in a large group and in front of an audience. By placing them in a small group, you take away their incentive to do the task right. Before a large group, they are much more active and energetic.

I save the most important lesson for the last paragraph. Know their names. Do not call the ANA "ANA". This is ridiculous, like addressing as US soldier by saying: "Hey American, come here!"


31 ibct, ana

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