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Course brings Afghanistan step closer to having armor corps

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'Crawl, Walk, Run.' That simple phrase is the common refrain you hear in the training facilities of the United States Army throughout the world. This approach forces new Soldiers to focus on the basics before moving onto more advanced techniques. In Afghanistan that same training principal is being applied at the newly opened Afghanistan National Army, or ANA, Armor Branch School.

In March, the ANA will take possession of the first 58 of 352 Mobile Strike Force Vehicles, or MSFVs, they will receive to enable quick reaction and Mobile Strike Force, or MSF, capabilities. These 58 vehicles represent the first Kandak, or Battalion, sized element of armored vehicles for the ANA. This capability will be critical once U.S. forces begin their drawdown.

Nonetheless, before the MSFVs can be put into the fight, the men who will use them must be trained to operate, utilize, and maintain the vehicles. Those training sessions began in December 2011 with the first 'Train the Instructor,' or T2I, class.

"The initial 'Train the Instructor' course was a huge success. It developed confidence, built relationships and enabled us to fully understand the challenges associated with conducting training across multiple languages and cultures," said Maj. Patrick McFall, the forward deployed representative from Product Manager, Armored Security Vehicle, known as PM ASV. "The success of this training regime is directly attributed to the hard work and determination of the entire team."

The U.S. Army's Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, or MSCoE, plays a critical role by leading the T2I effort, however they are not alone. T2I is a combined effort of MSCoE in partnership with the French Armor Branch School, the ANA Armor Branch School, PM ASV, and Textron Marine and Land Systems. PM ASV has been actively working in conjunction with the Combined Security Training Command -- Afghanistan, known as CSTC-A, to provide a complete fielding, training, and long term sustainment program to the five newly organized ANA battalion sized units known as "Kandaks."

The inaugural class was attended by 71 Afghan instructors, who will form the initial training force for the ANA Armor Branch School. It was during this training time that partnerships were formed, relationships were developed and confidence in the system was established.

"The final event of the training was a live fire exercise designed to test the knowledge acquired by the ANA instructors and to promote confidence within their ranks," added Col. William Boruff, Project Manager, Joint Combat Support Systems, known as PM JCSS.

"As the ANA instructors initially approached the vehicle, with ammunition in their arms, their faces were apprehensive. They didn't know what to expect. As they entered the turret, loaded the rounds and fired the weapon systems, you could see their confidence build with each engagement. As they left the vehicle, their faces were gleaming with smiles and confidence," said McFall.

The MSFV that is being fielded to the ANA is an updated version of the Armored Security Vehicle, a platform that has over four decades of proven performance. The modifications on the MSFV allow for additional protection while still utilizing commercial-off-the-shelf parts. The MSFV family consists of three variants, each designed to meet a specific combat role and enhance the ANA MSF capability. The three variants include an Armored Personnel Carrier with Gunner's Protective Kit, an Armored Personnel Carrier with Turret, and an Armored Ambulance.

"The MSFV provides each MSF Kandak, with a rapidly deployable, highly mobile armored capability that can quickly maneuver in an all terrain environment, while concurrently providing the ANA with sufficient firepower to conduct a wide variety of operational missions over an extended range and distance," said Capt. Joseph Denning, with PM ASV.

T2I has been a huge success as the first group of Afghan instructors is now ready to begin training the initial ANA MSF. As the U.S. Army begins the process of transition from Coalition-led events to Afghan-led events, the fielding, training and sustainment of MSFV will play a vital role in the success of the ANA.

The MSFV program is managed by the Army's PM ASV which falls under the leadership of PM JCSS within the Program Executive Office for Combat Support and Combat Service Support.

Article by Bill Good, PM JCSS