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ANA continuing operations: RSOI course hits ground running

By Cpl. Timothy Lenzo
Regional Command Southwest

CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan (Oct. 29, 2012)
— The Afghan National Army soldiers walk slowly as they scan the horizon. They are careful not to step out of line on the loose sand. In an instant, the patrol changes as the simulated sound of gunfire interrupts the quiet afternoon.

The patrol jumps to the ground. The soldiers ignore the dirt and rocks in their way as they find cover behind berms and in ditches.

Many Marines can relate to the scenario, a patrol walking through the sparse landscape of Afghanistan and being ambushed by enemies with automatic weapons. Today is only training, but this is the same scene many of the ANA soldiers may face in a couple weeks when they report to their units.

The Afghan soldiers joined Afghan officers during their reception, staging, onward movement and integration course. This is the first RSOI course conducted by the ANA 215th Corps. A total of 164 Afghan soldiers and officers with the 4th Brigade, attended the first rotation of training. This included more than 60 noncommissioned officers and 60 soldiers.

The RSOI training encompasses a variety of courses including marksmanship, infantry tactics, counter improvised explosive devices and a staff planning course.

The three-week course builds upon the soldier’s basic training, fine tuning their skillset before they enter the battlespace. The brigade plans to send more Afghan soldiers to the course as they enter the area of operations. The additional training is part of developing the overall professionalism of the ANA.

The course itself shows progress in the ANA’s ability to train and develop its own. Afghan officers and noncommissioned officers teach the different courses with Marines in an advisory role.

“The soldiers are learning a lot from the instructors,” said Col. Amanallah, brigade commander, 4th Brigade, 215th Corps. “In only a few days, I can see an improvement in the soldiers.”

Many of the soldiers recently graduated from their basic training in Kabul.

“The training is similar to Marine Combat Training or The Basic School,” said Maj. Brian Juaire, advisor team officer in charge, Regimental Combat Team 7.

Like the Marine Corps’ MCT and TBS, the Afghan RSOI training teaches both enlisted soldiers and officers how to operate more efficiently.

“It works the basic fundamentals for the individual soldier and higher level staff planning for the command elements,” said Juaire, from Spring, Texas. “Then it ties those two units together to conduct operations.”

Their training culminates in a multiday field exercise, testing the entire spectrum the courses covered. It helps the command see the logistics chain, while employing the infantry in tactical movements.

“The ANA have proven themselves very capable, intelligent and movitated to not only conduct training, but complete the training,” said Juarie. “They want to take over more operational capabilities.”

The soldiers discussed squad tactics and movements Oct. 11. The ANA soldiers used hand signals most Marines would recognize. One Afghan soldier showed the hand motion for a wedge by extending his arms out at either side in an upside down V shape. The wedge is a tactical fire team formation.

“The practice is really good for us,” said ANA Sgt. Zakraulla, a student in the course. “When we encounter real combat, we’ll be able to kill the enemy with less casualties.”

Zakraulla’s squad simulated patrolling through an area when they took enemy contact. A Marine instructor played the role of an insurgent, ambushing the patrol.

The ANA soldiers responded quickly and jumped down into a prone position, as Zakraulla called out order of movements. The Afghans used squad tactics they learned during the class to pin down the enemy while other soldiers moved closer.

After several fire team rushes, they eliminated the enemy and continued their patrol.

“It’s practice like this that is really going to help them,” said Sgt. Ryan Kendall, a small arms course instructor with Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, Regional Command Southwest.

The Afghans split their time between classrooms and practical application, like the simulated patrol.

“I’ve been impressed with their ability to learn quickly,” said Kendall, from Old Fort, N.C. “I hope they take what they’ve learned and pass it on to the other students.”

Soon, the first graduates of the RSOI program will complete their training and report to their units in the field. The program will reset for the next group of new soldiers as the ANA 215th Corps continues to beat back the insurgency in Afghanistan. 

 
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