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Afghan soldiers learn basics of security checkpoints

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Marines with 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, have been mentoring soldiers with the Afghan National Army since arriving to Afghanistan in May. The soldiers have made large strides in that short period as they learn to lead security efforts in the area. The soldiers recently learned how to properly conduct vehicle checkpoints with objects readily available. Belmont, Calif., native Sgt. Roberto Rayon, a squad leader with Headquarters Battery, 1/12, taught the class, emphasizing fundamental procedures and the importance of adapting to any scenario.

“I was trying to emphasize brilliance in basics,” said Rayon. “As long as you have guidelines, you can utilize them to do anything.”

The soldiers asked Rayon many questions, focusing on what to do when a suspect does something unpredictable. Rayon stressed the importance of using rules of engagement and escalation of force to control any scenario involving potentially hostile individuals.

“I went into rules of engagement and escalation of force, which go hand-in-hand with [the training],” said Rayon. “I taught them how to utilize hand and arm signals, flags, pen flares, disabling shots and kill shots, and then I explained rules of engagement, including hostile acts, hostile intent and positive identification [of suspects].”

The soldiers seemed to be responsive to the training, especially the Afghan leadership.

“The [ANA] first sergeant was out there asking plenty of questions,” said Rayon. “The ANA, they learn better from their own [members]. I’m hoping that first sergeant can teach [his soldiers] and they can respond better to it.”

The vehicle checkpoint lesson was just the latest training the Marines have provided for the soldiers. The Marines have given weekly or semiweekly classes to the Afghans throughout their deployment, but training slowed down during August in accordance with Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The Marines plan to continue providing classes now that Ramadan is over and may even increase the frequency of the lessons, said Rayon.

“The [solders] want to learn,” said San Antonio native, Staff Sgt. Johnny Garza, the platoon sergeant for the Combat Support Advisory Team, 1/12. “Sometimes they have difficulty understanding what we’re teaching and a mixing of communication happens. Little by little, they are trying to understand and they’re starting to move forward.”

The partnership between the ANA and Marines is important as the Afghans continue to take more direct control of security in their country to free it from insurgents. Frequent training events like these are provided to help the ANA soldiers become more proficient.

“The ANA partnership is imperative,” said Rayon. “We want to ensure they are well-trained and can move into position and be successful.”

Article by Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde, 2nd Marine Division