In the Helmand province of Afghanistan, Afghan National Security Forces are slowly taking the reins from the Marine Corps, protecting locals, fighting the insurgency and upholding Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan law.
Recently, Marines and Sailors of Border Advisory Team 2 have been mentoring 2nd Kandak Afghan Border Police to ensure that the transition from Marines to ANSF forces goes smoothly as Marines and coalition forces withdraw from the Helmand province.
The BAT 2 is composed of 21 Marines and Sailors whose occupational specialties span the war-fighting functions. The BAT received in-depth cultural guidance which allows them to instruct, advise and mentor Afghans.
Marines and Sailors of the advisory team don’t just train Afghans. They utilize their cultural awareness to also advise coalition forces on their Afghan partnerships.
“Other forces are not always as culturally in tune as BAT 2,” said Capt. Brian D. Vukelic, officer in charge, BAT 2. “We sleep, eat and work with the Afghans every single day and we use our knowledge to help other Marines and coalition forces plan and work with the Afghans in an effective manner. That will allow Afghans to gain a foundation of security to take over on their own in the future.”
The BAT team arrived in Afghanistan in Oct. 2011. The organization of the BAT team is based on the composition of the 2nd Kandak. A Kandak is an Afghan word to describe a battalion sized Afghan unit. Currently the ABP’s 2nd Kandak has four companies and a headquarters element within itself. Each company of the 2nd Kandak is allotted one Embedded Training Team consisting of an officer, a staff noncommissioned officer, a corpsman and a noncommissioned officer. The headquarters element of 2nd Kandak receives it’s advisement from the BAT’s headquarters group which consists of 3 officers, a Staff NCO and an NCO.
“This is by far the best Kandak,” said Gunnery Sgt. Charles D. Arnold, staff noncommissioned officer in charge, BAT 2. “The hardest part was building rapport with the ABP but they were very welcoming and made us part of their team almost as soon as we got here.”
Working in small groups alongside Afghans is part of the BAT’s plan to build the confidence and capability of the Afghan police.
“Things like communication in the chain of command, transportation, logistics and literacy are rampant problems within the ABP,” said Vukelic, a native of Steubenville, Ohio. “The Afghans are very intelligent but an inability to read and write sometimes allows for miscommunication and corruption among the ranks. Our hope is that by working with them on a more personal level and providing them with literacy education programs we can improve the faith that the troops have in their leadership and faith in themselves.”
Even after only two months of being in country, the BAT team is seeing results and progress towards the independence of the border police from the Marine Corps.
“If they have questions we’re always here to help,” Arnold said, originally from Bellebiew, Fla. “But the main accomplishment for us so far has been that they don’t really need us now. They can operate almost completely independently. We’re here to facilitate them being self-sufficient but they are already well on their way.”
Article by Cpl. Daniel Wulz, Regional Command Southwest