Afghan soldiers visit Okinawa bases to learn from NCOs
June 13, 2009
CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — Afghan National Army Maj. Gen. Rahim Wardak says he wants his 201st Corps noncommissioned officers to shoulder more leadership and technical responsibilities.
During visits Wednesday to camps Hansen and Schwab, Wardak and four others from his command observed Marine NCOs from the 3rd Marine Division and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in action during an NCO Staff Academy briefing and an artillery fire demonstration.
The Afghan group was participating in a weeklong visit to Okinawa to see firsthand how Marine Corps Bases Japan operates.
Wardak said he was impressed by the Marines’ professionalism and organization.
"The NCOs are the backbone, and it is very crucial and very important for our soldiers to have that same kind of professionalism and training," Wardak said through a translator. "They are hard-working Marines, disciplined and very good examples for our soldiers."
The role of an NCO is a fairly new concept to the Afghan National Army, said Sgt. Maj. Ziaulhaq Amanzai, one of the visiting Afghan soldiers.
"I want to take this to my army, my corps," Amanzai said. "Our NCOs do not have as much responsibilities in the way the Marines do."
The visit is part of ongoing mentoring and advising between U.S. forces and the Afghan National Army.
This is the third time the Marine Corps has hosted leaders of the Afghan National Army on Okinawa, said Marine Col. Jeff Haynes, a 3rd Marine Division staff officer who was leading the tour.
Haynes said the briefings and demonstrations focused on maintenance, leadership, basic training and education. The Afghan officers also toured the brig, learned about chaplain roles, staff functions, and how to secure and store weapons.
The group departs Saturday for Afghanistan, he said.
"We’re showing them what right looks like," Haynes said. "As they build their army to enable a modern army to function, they need to see examples."
Haynes served as an advisor to Wardak in 2008, when he was the commanding officer for the Regional Corps Advisory Command, comprised of 700 military advisors from five countries.
He said the structure and organization of operations and training the officers observe during their visit is critical to shaping the Afghan army.
While there have been advances, Haynes said, the Afghan soldiers and officers still struggle with favoritism among different ethnic groups. And, he said, many orders and processes for tasks such as storing weapons properly are not written down.
Haynes said the visit should encourage the Afghan officers to implement some of the procedures within their command.
"It may seem basic, but we’re teaching proficiency and accountability," Haynes said.
Haynes said he has worked with Wardak to emphasize professional development and education in mid-level leaders, investing in advanced equipment and weaponry, and keeping young soldiers motivated.
Haynes said the long-term goal is to advance the army’s capabilities to operate at the forefront with foreign forces operating as support.
"It’s pushing the Afghans to the front and allowing them to own their battle space," Haynes said.