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Less than five days after he helped stop one of the largest insurgent attacks on Kabul since October, a member of the Afghan National Army 6th Kandak commando unit was recognized for his bravery by the ANA Chief of Staff.
For his bravery and actions that day, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi presented 1st Lt. Mentaz with a promotion and the Baryal Medal 1st State during the a commando graduation ceremony at Camp Morehead. Mentaz shot and killed a suicide bomber before the bomber could detonate his vest preventing potentially significant loss of life and damage
A company of other commandos, also from the 6th Kandak, were recognized for their efforts in defeating the insurgency attack, which was subdued in five hours.
Speaking to the crowd of more than 1,000 graduates, trainers and trainees, Mohammadi praised the efforts of Mentaz and the commandos with him who responded to the Kabul crisis.
"They were able to overcome these insurgents in a very quick time. The Taliban insurgents were very experienced and they knew what to do, but you know the person who doesn't care about his life, he can do anything, but the reaction of the Afghan security force was in my perspective, excellent, they did a great job," said Mohammadi. The same operation which is happen in other countries would last for two, three days. I see it as a great achievement."
A kandak is the Afghan equivalent to a U.S. Army battalion, and with 929 graduates, the 7th Kandak was the largest class to graduate since the first commando unit completed training July 28, 2007. The next class, the 8th Kandak, begins training Feb. 13, and will have about 1,000 students; the overall goal is to create nine Kandaks.
The 12-week commando course is modeled after U.S. Army Ranger training, and instructors are Special Forces mentors and advisors. According to the Task Force Morehead commander, ANA commandos have one of the lowest attrition rates in the Afghan national security forces, something U.S. Army Lt. Col. Kerry Costello credits to the training and dedication of the students.
"Each Kandak has a special forces embedded with them. I firmly believe the old adage that good teachers make good students and from doing PT [physical training] to marching to shooting and moving drills, these guys are with the trainees every day," said he said. "The ANA commando's have the lowest problem with retention in the ANA service. I believe they are better motivated; the course is very physically demanding, but they get more money, better rations and living conditions. These guys are the best of the best."
Commando positions are a special duty; volunteers are chosen from ANA after they have completed the eight-week basic training course at the Kabul Military Training Center. In addition to the commando benefits, one of the key reasons the American mentors the training program is so successful is that commandos are now being trained by other commandos. The U.S. Special Forces provide mentorship and technical training, but the vast majority of commandos are being trained by CTE cadre.
Every trainee learns basic rifle marksmanship, individual maneuvering techniques and squad, platoon and company size operations. Afghan Command Sgt. Maj. Mirwais, in charge of the Afghan-led Commando Training Element said that much of the 12-weeks is spent on weapons qualification, including basic and then advanced marksmanship, mounted and dismounted patrol, close-quarters combat techniques, room entry and clearance procedures.
"The training is the best," said Mirwais, and indicating the recent graduates and the commandos from the 6th Kandak, added, "And this is the best Afghanistan has to offer."