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Two Marines are using their mountain- climbing skills while training an Afghan army platoon at a checkpoint at the Pakistan border.

Sgt. Seth E. Lewis and Lance Cpl. Michael J. Subu, both based in Okinawa, Japan, are the sole embedded training-team mentors for the Afghan soldiers near Bari Kot village in eastern Kunar province.

The checkpoint is a post of the Afghan border police. An Afghan National Army post is 500 meters up a mountain across the Kunar River from Pakistan, according to a news release issued Tuesday by Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan.

Lewis, 29, of Chattanooga, Tenn., estimates he has climbed up the mountain to the observation post at least 50 times.

Most of the ANA soldiers they mentor work and sleep at the top of the mountain, and part of the Americans’ job is to help the Afghan army build up and secure the observation post.

At the bottom of the hill, the two Marines live in a billeting hut with Afghan soldiers, a platoon of U.S. soldiers and some members of the Afghan border police.

Lewis and Subu, of Jacksonville, N.C., are deployed as part of Embedded Training Team 7-2 from 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa.

Lewis was assigned to the checkpoint in early autumn, and Subu joined him in November. The team is based at Forward Operating Base Naray, and mentors are divided across the area in six groups of two or three Marines, with one Navy hospital corpsman at FOB Naray and another at FOB Kamdesh.

“Because the teams are split up … the job here requires (noncommissioned officers) to step up,” 1st Sgt. Matthew S. Seamans, 42, of Shorewood, Minn., a senior enlisted mentor with the team, was quoted as saying in the release.

Lewis said he is trying to help the Afghan soldiers see leadership the way the Marines do, with NCOs and staff NCOs having leadership roles and responsibilities as well as the officers.

ANA Lt. Col. Mohammad Naseem, commander of the 3rd Kandak (Armored), praised the trainers for providing them with logistical and operational support.

As for the terrain, he said in the release, the soldiers are “all the time ready to climb mountains.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is pushing for more resources in Afghanistan, particularly to train Afghan security forces.

Task Force Phoenix, which is in charge of training Afghan forces, has requested 3,400 trainers for Afghan troops and police. Up to 800 soldiers are expected to arrive in the spring to help bolster the 5,000 to 6,000 training personnel already there, Defense officials said last month.

Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol contributed to this report.


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