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Mountain Warrior Soldiers Advise, Train and Assist Afghan Army
by U.S. Army Staff. Sgt. John Etheridge - July 11, 2014

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"Mere Chance" by David G. Bancroft

FOB Apache, Afghanistan - An Afghan army truck rolled down the long, dusty road of the entry control point of Forward Operating Base Apache. The truck was filled with American Soldiers on their way to deliver spare military vehicle parts to their Afghan partners on their adjacent base, FOB Eagle, Zabul Province, Afghanistan.

In the spirit of the advise, assist and train mission, Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., visited their Afghan partners June 18, 2014, to provide them with advanced weapons maintenance training and deliver much needed supplies.

U.S. Army Sgt. Mitchell McClain, an armament mechanic with Fury Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., discusses small arms maintenance with his Afghan army counterparts at Forward Operating Base Eagle, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, June 18, 2014.McClain is part of a maintenance team that advises, trains and assists the Afghan army. (U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. John Etheridge)
U.S. Army Sgt. Mitchell McClain, an armament mechanic with Fury Company, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Inf. Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., discusses small arms maintenance with his Afghan army counterparts at Forward Operating Base Eagle, Zabul Province, Afghanistan, June 18, 2014.McClain is part of a maintenance team that advises, trains and assists the Afghan army. (U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. John Etheridge)

Because they only had a short time available to them for the visit, the Soldiers were raring to get started with the training as they arrived at the Afghan maintenance building.

But first, an Afghan ritual: tea.br>
“It's always important to have chai,” said 1st Lt. Nicholas Dockery, a sustainment and maintenance advisor with Headquarters Company, 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Regt. “The Afghans place a lot more importance on the greeting and the pre-work ritual than we do.”

Almonds, candy and tea were passed around as the leaders, with the help of an interpreter, greeted each other and introduced their associates. After a few minutes of small talk the discussion finally turned to maintenance, the reason Dockery made the trip.

“My main tasking is to advise and assist the 2nd Afghan Army Brigade (205th Corps) on their logistical operations systems and also advise and assist on vehicle, generator, and other maintenance repair,” he said.

He explained that the U.S. Army's supply system has had decades of trial and error to form into a system that can adjust to deficiencies and move property and equipment efficiently between organizations. These are the areas Dockery focuses on when working on logistical operations with his Afghan counterparts because, although strong in many areas, they are still learning and gaining experience, he said.

He also advises on maintenance and tries to teach a method for preserving equipment that has worked exceptionally well for the U.S. Army.

“One of the things I'm trying to push is preventive maintenance,” he said. This allows the maintainers and command to get a better pulse on the condition of their equipment and also allows for the forecasting of parts and equipment that will be needed in the future, he explained further.

“Focusing on preventive maintenance will make up for itself 10-fold down the line,” he said.

Toward the end of the tea-time meeting, Dockery was handed a piece of paper with Dari writing on it. Although he could decipher most of it himself, he had a little help from his interpreter. It was a list of all the vehicles in the Afghan brigade and all their different mechanical statuses. After viewing it for a couple minutes and looking somewhat satisfied, he folded it and put it in his pocket. It was now time to move on to weapons maintenance training.

The group of Afghan and American Soldiers moved through the motor pool building and around to the other side to a small-arms repair shop. To the surprise of the American armament mechanics, inside the shop a rocket propelled grenade launcher and DShK large caliber machine gun, also referred to as a dushka, were spread out on a work bench.

“The plan was to go over and instruct the Afghans on preventative maintenance and quarterly inspections of the M2 .50 caliber machinegun,” said Sgt. Mitchell McClain an armament mechanic with Fury Co. 2nd Bn., 12th Inf. Regt. “When we got over there they had their Dushka out.”

He explained that often they have to adjust their plans when working with their partners.

“Instead we looked at the problems they were having with their other weapon systems,” he said.

For the next hour or so McClain and his assistant worked on fixing a host of weapons problems with the Afghans. They looked at problems with the Dushka and assisted them with a couple of M-16 rifles.

McClain said that he has visited his counterparts 3 or 4 times since his arrival at FOB Apache. On his first visit, he and his section did an assessment of what areas they could most help the Afghans in regards to armament repair. Since then they have been focusing on higher-level armament training of their counterparts and also on getting them higher-level technical manuals.

“Their armament personnel are very eager to learn,” he said. He also said that his Afghan partners are in need of specialized tools and gauges and he tries to help with procuring those items but it has to be done through the Afghan army supply system.

After the group finishes at the armament shop they walk together back to the vehicle they arrived in.

Dockery shows the supplies he brought over to the Afghan commander. The rear of the vehicle is stacked with a couple tires, a transmission, and other military vehicle parts. The parts have been procured and repurposed to assist the Afghan army.

As the Soldiers talk while gathered around the rear of the truck, another Afghan army truck pulls alongside and parks next to them. Dockery and the other Soldiers say good bye to their Afghan hosts and climb aboard the newly parked vehicle. They head back to FOB Apache and will reload the truck with more spare parts and return back through the entry control point and bring their partners another delivery the next day.

By U.S. Army Staff. Sgt. John Etheridge
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2014

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