By Lt.j.g. Andrew Carleen, Combined Joint Task Force Paladin
SHARANA, Afghanistan (June 14, 2012) — Members of the 74th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company have been conducting training for Afghan National Army soldiers here for the past 10 months.
Afghan National Army soldiers discuss how to defeat a training improvised explosive device during a session held by the 74th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company. The training is meant to improve the skills of the ANA units who conduct partnered missions with their U.S. counterparts. (Photo by Lt.j.g. Andrew Carleen)
The 74th took over the training of ANA soldiers from the 2/203 Route Clearance Company and the 4/2/203 EOD Combat Support when they arrived in theatre.
“The training program I have is to identify and address shortcomings in weapons, first aid, and standard tactics,” said 1st Lt. David G. Erck the officer in charge for partnership for the 74th EOD.
The 74th has taken steps to create a training program that reflects as much as possible the real-world scenarios that the ANA will encounter.
“We’re pulling from things that we see out in sector out in the area,” said EOD technician, Staff Sgt. Kenneth F. Hay, one of the instructors. “If we get them scared in the training, they’ll be comfortable in the real world.”
“We’re going out on mission with these guys and we need to be able to identify shortcomings,” said Erck. “Our training program is driven by these shortcomings and by enemy TTPs.”
Over the course of the training, the 74th has seen the ANA soldiers make steady improvements. With these improvements the 74th instructors have had to make adjustments to the course, posing increasingly difficult scenarios to the ANA.
“The new training that we’ve moved into is out of the crawl, into the walk, and getting towards the run phase,” said Hay. “I’m making the training as difficult as possible. We try to come up with a scenario that they can get multiple learning points out of.”
“We’ve come a long way,” said Erck. “They’re learning because they want to, not because they’re being pushed into it.”
“These guys can now really clearly define the parameters of their thought processes,” said Hay. “They’re able to formulate plans that, once implemented, rarely require any deviation.”
The 74th is also pushing to have leaders among the ANA step up and take a more active role in training their own soldiers.
“We primarily focus on ‘train the trainer,’” said Erck. “We’re getting them up to speed so they can take the lead in the training. My own philosophy is: once you’ve learned it, teach it to someone.”
“There are several key guys we’ve identified as leaders for the instruction,” said Hay. “I want them to be thought provokers. After the incident is run, they should be able to lead a discussion and ask others, ‘What would you have done?’”
The training program has come with its challenges. The language barrier can make communication difficult and logistical challenges faced by the ANA has also posed problems.
“The ANA are well aware of their [logistical] limitations but have taken very simple methods and perfected them,” said Hay. “They’re phenomenal at rope tricks.”
The 74th attributes much of their success to the attitude of the ANA soldiers with whom they’ve been partnering.
“I like the fact that they want to be challenged,” said Hay. “Not only do they thank me when I present them with a difficult scenario, they say ‘Bring it on.’”
The experience of training has taught the 74th a lot about partnership.
“You have to customize partnership,” said Erck. “Ask yourself, what do you want out of it? What do you need them to know that will save your life and theirs?”
“I’d urge others [involved in partnership] to take a personal and vested interest,” said Hay. “Take an interest in who, how, and what you’re training. Force them to learn.”
The 74th is part of Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, which is responsible for counter-IED operations and training theatre-wide.
(c) US CENTCOM