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The soldiers, who completed their training at their base in Nahr-e Saraj, are now able to carry out vital information-gathering which will assist in providing security after International Security Assistance Force troops withdraw from a combat role in 2014.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, known as ‘warriors’, will now operate as part of a battalion-sized unit or ‘kandak’.
Corporal Pete Evans from 40 Commando led a team of 7 marines instructing the Afghan soldiers in infantry skills and map-reading.
A lot of the warriors are illiterate so the map-reading was about getting them used to seeing maps; by the end of our week most were able to plot and give a six-figure grid reference, with some even giving eight-figure references, which is very impressive.
The Afghan soldiers on the course were hand-picked for reconnaissance training having passed out of basic training 18 months beforehand.
One of the instructors, Marine Lee Howell, said:
This was quite an interesting assignment for us as operational marines with very little mentoring experience. The ANA warriors on the course were all keen to learn. For us, this was an opportunity to consolidate everything we have learnt and to pass on those skills.
Working alongside the Royal Marines were the ANA’s own instructors who delivered several elements of the course: an ANA officer taught intelligence-gathering and evidence-collection, members of an ANA search team advised on detecting improvised explosive devices, and an ANA vehicle mechanic held classes on basic vehicle maintenance.
Corporal Evans said:
They are starting to teach themselves, which is a really positive development and one that means they can progress in the future.
The passing out of the Afghan soldiers was marked with a parade at Camp Gereshk in central Helmand province, attended by troops from 3/215 Brigade and the Reconnaissance Troop of 40 Commando Royal Marines, and each marines instructor was presented with an Afghan ‘kholay’ hat and a scarf by their Afghan colleagues.