CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan --
Coalition forces with the Regional Logistics Support Command-Southwest Advisor Team have made significant progress training members of the Afghan National Army in the past few months.
More than a hundred ANA soldiers piled into 31 vehicles and set out for their first independent cross-boundary combat logistics patrol, March 15, at Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan.
The RLSC-SW Advisor Team is a joint team sourced through NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan. Working side by side with Afghan counterparts, members of the RLSC-SW Advisor Team have paved the way for handing over logistical responsibilities to the ANA.
“When I first came here I knew it would be the most fun, rewarding, challenging and frustrating job I have ever had,” said Lt. Col. Luke Kratky, partnering office-in-charge, RLSC-SW Advisor Team. “And it has been exactly that.”
The unit is responsible for providing logistical support to all ANA brigades in Helmand province. When the unit first stood up, Jan. 16, brigade commanders outside of Camp Shorabak were not informed of the changeover of support from coalition forces to the ANA. To spread the word, Col. Mumtaz Karimi, RLSC-SW commander, has travelled to different locations to share the new plan with other commanders.
At a visit to Delaram, March 14, Col. Mumtaz and Lt. Col. Kratky met with key ANA leaders to provide personal service to their customers. During the meeting, leaders were able to discuss discrepancies and come up with solutions for concerns such as fixing broken trucks.
“Before, we were helpless,” said Col. Abdul Hai Nashat, 2nd Brigade executive officer. “Luckily we have [RLSC-SW] here now. This is good news for us.”
Both coalition forces and Afghan counterparts have contributed to the success of the unit. The willingness of the advisory teams to teach and the eagerness of the ANA to learn have resulted in progress that has exceeded expectations.
Personnel accountability used to be a major problem. Now a formation is held each morning and roll call is taken to ensure each soldier is present. The ANA has started enacting consequences for unauthorized absences. The ability to maintain accountability represents a more stable and organized group.
Advisor teams give classes to senior noncommissioned officers within the ANA. Those senior NCOs are now able to take the knowledge they learned and independently train their junior soldiers. Through the classes, soldiers learned how to conduct weapons maintenance and communications checks.
Only two months ago, Afghan counterparts were only able to perform oil changes and minor preventative maintenance. After moving into a true maintenance facility, they have repaired more than 50 vehicles and can replace transmissions, pistons and exhaust systems.
The team has also addressed smaller factors that contribute to a successful mission as well. Before setting out for their independent convoy, cooks prepared a meal for the trip. As the RLSC-SW gains experience, their attention to detail improves and the preparations for convoys becomes smoother.
Col. Mumtaz spoke to the soldiers before they left for Kandahar Air Field to pick up 147 pallets of gear.
“Col Mumtaz has been the consummate professional,” said Capt. Tracy Rientz, operations officer, RLSC-SW Advisor Team. “He consistently expresses to his entire battalion the importance of professionalism and tells them that time is like gold and to spend every minute wisely."
For the Afghans to lead logistical support operations on their own speaks volumes for the efforts made on both sides. In a short time, the RLSC-SW Advisor Team has set the foundation for a dependable and capable force that will pave the way for the ANA across Afghanistan.
“Today, we are making history,” said Lt. Col. Kratky. “I believe in Afghanistan with all of my heart. They are an incredibly proud people with an incredible history and if they can do this here in Helmand, they can do it anywhere.”
The advisory teams met with their counterparts to say goodbye as the soldiers packed their bags and prepared to go.
“Watching a unit go from where it was to being a representation of what Afghanistan can do has been an incredibly humbling experience,” said Lt. Col. Kratky. “This mission is letting the world know that great things are happening out here.”