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Training the trainer, Afghan-style

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With the withdrawal of International Security Assistance Forces looming in the future, coalition forces are focused on their partnered training programs so that the Afghan National Security Forces will be adequately trained when the bulk of coalition forces depart in 2014. One such approach ISAF is using is a program that has proven successful in the U.S. Army: the train-the-trainer program.

While often associated with combat training, the trainer-the-trainer program, when applied to traditional partnered training in Afghanistan, allows knowledgeable small-unit leaders and trainers the opportunity to train and mentor their Afghan counterparts in the basic ways and means of needed skill sets.

A skill set not often considered, but important to the Afghan National Army mission, is the proper operation and maintenance of a crane. Such training would allow the ANA to move disabled vehicles around their motor pool in order to repair and maintain their equipment; a task which is currently tedious and time consuming without such equipment at their disposal.

One such coalition unit providing crane training is the 132nd Engineer Company (Mobile-Role Bridge), California Army National Guard, from Redding, Calif. The 132nd Engineer Company (MRBC) is nearing the end of their tour of duty in Afghanistan, however, before leaving they took the opportunity to provide the basic skill sets necessary for a couple of ANSF non-commissioned officers from the 5th Kandak (battalion) to teach their Soldiers how to operate a crane they had in their inventory.

"We attempted to teach them the basic concepts of how a crane operates and the safety involved with it (and the) maintenance (skills) essential for it to operate," explained Spc. Richard Malacky.

In essence, the goal of their training is to instruct the ANSF on how to operate the machinery safely and properly which gives the ANSF a better working knowledge of how their equipment works.

The crane training the soldiers of the 132nd Engineer Company (MRBC) are instructing the ANSF in is something they, themselves, learned over several weeks at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. This fact speaks to the expertise of these soldiers as they were able to teach the basics of crane operation to the ANA soldiers in just a couple days.

"It's a pretty extensive course if you take it back in the states," said Malaky.

For that reason the primary focus of Malaky's training focused on the safe operation of the crane. Emphasis was placed on the use of the outriggers - metallic pads located on the sides that assist the crane when it lifts loads by putting the weight of the load on the stabilizers - as well as how to conduct preventive maintenance, checks and services which will help extend the life of the ANA's vehicles. Additionally, the importance of not overloading the boom was examined at length.

"I'm teaching them to keep the load close to the crane and the boom fully retracted, and keep the load behind the crane as opposed to the sides where the outriggers are at," Malaky said.

One of the Afghan trainers being instructed this day is Sgt. Ghulam Mahudin of the 5th Kandak, 205th ANA Corps. Mahudin, who will train additional ANA soldiers back at his unit following this block of instruction, agreed that the training he received here was good and would help him in the future.

"Before this training, I did not know more information about this boom," said Mahudin, "but now I know when the boom has to be short so I can pick up heavy things. It means my experience became more and my experience has become good."

Article by Sgt. Christopher McCullough, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division