Kentucky Guardsmen use civilian experience to train Afghan Soldiers

Feb. 24, 2014 | By kentuckyguard
Story by Lt. j.g. Brian Mitchell, ISAF Regional Command North [caption id="" align="alignright" width="350"]130820-N-XQ805-001 Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard 1103rd Military Police Detachment recently trained members of the Afghan National Army on personal security detail. Members of the ANA are training on how to remove a dignitary from a threatening situation. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Brian Mitchell) CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan -- Back in Kentucky, Master Sgt. Timothy Mullins and Sgt. Brad Stone are two of the scores of dedicated law enforcement officers working to keep citizens of the Bluegrass State safe. But here in Afghanistan, where both served as military police officers aboard the largest military outpost in the northern part of the country, they represent so much more. Their cumulative civilian experience, Mullins patrolling the southeastern Appalachian corner of Kentucky for the state police while Stone maintains order at Lexington’s Federal Medical Center, is vast. Add to that their combined deployed experience, Mullins served previously in Iraq training customs officials while Stone is on his fourth tour following three in Iraq, and you’d be hard pressed to find soldiers with a better understanding of what is means to protect and serve both at peace and at war. So they leapt at the opportunity to share their knowledge with the burgeoning Afghan National Army. The two members of the Kentucky National Guard 1103rd Military Police Detachment recently spent several days teaching a group of Afghans how to conduct personnel security detail, which is the finely honed skill of protecting dignitaries and military leaders. “This was a great chance for us to give back and show the Afghans some of the specialized skills a military needs to protect its leadership,” Mullins said. Their experience mimics that of the hundreds of fellow soldiers deployed to this sprawling German-run outpost. With the war winding down, American and coalition troops are taking a back seat to the burgeoning Afghan National Army. After investing hundreds of millions in training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces – essentially the combined forces of the nation’s army, police forces and specialized law enforcement institutions – the coalition is decreasing its footprint here while the Afghans take the lead in combating a stubborn insurgency. While most soldiers deployed here train their Afghan counterparts on basic military tactics and techniques – everything from marksmanship to logistics, vehicle maintenance to pilot training – Mullins and Stone recruited two of the Kentucky National Guard colleagues to conduct the two-day training evolution. But here in Afghanistan, where the average citizen lives on roughly $3 per day and illiteracy still plagues a majority of the population, simple training can be challenging. The more complex scenarios like personnel security detail can be especially daunting. “We were worried because we realize they don’t have a background in this work, and it’s more complex and involved than simple soldiering,” Stone said. They packed a lot in two days, touching on escort formations, arrivals and departures, advance work, motorcade operations and a broad overview of how protective services fits into a larger military structure. Nevertheless, like so many other soldiers here, the guardsmen were pleasantly surprised with how well their pupils took to the course. “Honestly, I was amazed at how quickly they picked it up,” Mullins said. “You quickly realize they may be illiterate but that does not mean they’re not intelligent.” Stone echoed the sentiment. “It was amazing to watch them quickly come into their own,” he said. “It didn’t matter who you put in what position or what sort of format we threw at them. They would be able to shift and show you how quickly they adapt.” The training exercise proved to be the highlight of an interesting tour during a pivotal time during this 13-year conflict. Camp Marmal is as colorful an installation to be found anywhere in this Texas-sized country. Seventeen nations contribute troops to the mission here. A German two-star general commands the region, Mongolian soldiers serve as sentries at the gates while F-16s from the Royal Netherlands Air Force patrol the skies above the base. A Fort Knox-based Cavalry unit just finished its nine-month tour providing combat arms support while a Missouri National Guard unit equipped with Apache attack helicopters, Chinook and Black Hawk transport choppers ferries troops and gear between snow-capped mountains and lush river valleys. The diverse coalition stirs a lively base life. It’s a place where you can hear a half dozen languages before breakfast and where troops are just as likely to travel from their tent to work and to the gym by bicycle as they are by tactical vehicle. Despite the differences in culture and war-zone regulations, Mullins found his coalition partners to be capable, professional and mission focused. “We learned a lot from each other, but you really learn that military people are similar in so many ways,” he said. “We all come here wanting to do a good job and you find all the differences aren’t as important as everyone’s commitment to serve at a high level.” Now, as the unit eyes its return to Kentucky, Stone and Mullins are hoping their brief encounter with the Afghans will result in the same commitment. “These people have been through so much, but they work hard and they showed me a lot of professionalism and purpose,” Stone said. “I’m hopeful for them.”

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