Royal Marines from Taunton’s 40 Commando have completed the training of a section of the Afghan National Army.
The first 27 Reconnaissance Troops for the Afghan National Army’s 3rd Kandak 215 Brigade have passed out of training at their base in Nahr-e Saraj.
The training, carried out by 40 Commando Royal Marines, means the Afghan students are now able to carry out vital information gathering which will assist in providing security after ISAF troops withdraw from a combat role in 2014.
The pass-out was marked with a parade at Camp Gereshk, in Central Helmand Province, attended by troops from 3/215 Kandak and the Reconnaissance Troop of 40 Commando Royal Marines, their mentors on the four-week course.
The Afghan soldiers, known as ‘Warriors’, will now operate as part of a battalion sized unit or ‘Kandak’.
Corporal Pete Evans, from Aintree, Liverpool, led a team of seven marines instructing the Afghan soldiers in infantry skills and map reading. Corporal Evans said: “A lot of the Warriors are illiterate so the map reading was about getting them used to seeing maps, by the end of our week most were able to plot and give a six-figure grid reference with some even giving eight-figure references which is very impressive.”
For many of the Marines of 40 Commando Reconnaissance Troop this was a new and challenging task. Most of the mentors were relatively junior Marines being exposed to a teaching role for the very first time. However, their depth of knowledge impressed their Afghan students, many of whom thought their instructors were sergeants such was their professionalism and bearing. One of the Royal Marine instructors, Marine Lee Howell, from Weston Super Mare, said: “This was quite an interesting assignment for us as operational Marines with very little mentoring experience. The ANA Warriors on the course were all keen to learn. For us this was an opportunity to consolidate everything we have learnt and to pass on those skills.”
Working alongside the Marines were the ANA’s own instructors. Afghan experts delivered elements of the course with an ANA intelligence officer teaching intelligence and evidence collection, an ANA search team advising on counter IED drills while the basic maintenance of vehicles was taught by an ANA vehicle mechanic. Cpl Evans added: “They are starting to teach themselves which is a really positive development and one that means they can progress in the future.”
Each Marine instructor was presented with an Afghan ‘kholay’ hat and a scarf from their Afghan colleagues to say thankyou.
The Afghan soldiers on the course were hand picked for reconnaissance training having passed out of basic training eighteen months beforehand. The Reconnaissance Platoon’s high levels of training and skill are held in high regard by their colleagues in the Kandak.