Saturday, May 11, 2013

Month 9 Day 11

Notebook Entry
Australian Sergeant Major, Battle Sight Zero Snipers, Useless Afghan national Army Staff teaching, Commander doesn’t want star, Quantity versus quality, Croats, Jordanians, 128 go unauthorized absence of 488 after they hear they are being sent to Helmand. 90 New Personnel.

Journal Entry
I got a decent sleep-in today.  That was nice. I went to the spectacularly clean and well-equipped gym that they have here then dropped off my laundry for next day service.  This is a place that I could really handle living in for a year, the buildings are cement, the climate is nice the internet is lightning fast, the chow is great.  Everything about this place is better than our spot in Helmand.
I had the chance to have breakfast with two of the Aussie army warrant officers they were a wealth of information about the ground truth of this place.  They called it the sausage factory. In theory they should get soldiers who have completed their advanced individual training after boot camp, assemble them together for some unit-training, and then push the unit down the road.  Once it is proficient and at the appropriate manning level.
In truth, rarely have any of the soldiers completed their specialty schools by the time that they make it here.  Or our kandak alone they are getting 90 brand new soldiers tomorrow and fielding them on the same day that they come in because they are required to have a unit at 85% of the tashkil before it is fielded. 
The soldiers that do get to go through the training are not really taught by Afghans, they are taught by Americans and by contractors who are often American ex-military.  There is no testing whatsoever that happens after the Afghans teach the classes the attitude is ‘I’m a LtCol and I told them so they should know.’ There was an individual in on of the classes who did not speak Pashto or dari, but the classes were so uni-directional that they did not find this out until two weeks into the course. Even the testing that the CF provides is a bit of a joke. Our kandak commander sent all of his staff officers on leave because he worked here prior to his assignment and thought that the validation process was useless.  In truth it is pretty toothless. The route clearance company failed its validation and they were still fielded, likewise, this kandak has done poorly, but they are still being fielded on time. One of the aussie sgtMaj’s who I spoke to about this related a conversation he had with a 2star general this way the two star told him to ‘pull your head in, this is just a numbers game, we have to field 30,000 soldiers, so that is what we are going to do.  That is also the reason that we are getting 90 new soldiers fresh out of boot camp with no connection with this unit. Because they have to make a numerical threshold of 85% and they have to do it by a certain time. Thus they dub this the sausage factory.  They admit their frustration at it.  They are ultimately sending substandard soldiers into the operating forces where many will lose their lives, but what else are they going to do.  It seems like this level of command is obsessed with the stuff solution as well.  It is not about what you are actually able to teach them, but about how many you can push out the door.  The conspiracy theory that I hear from these guys is that the brass are just doing CYA for the politicians, the politicians need to be able to plausibly say that they provided the ana with all that they needed to function and that their failure is on them.  My kandak understood that they were going to helmand when they saw the marines and 128 of 488 went UA. That didn’t stop the fielding either, they just robbed from another kandak that is supposed to be fielded later and gave them to us. They said that a lot of them will probably go UA en route along with a fair bit of equipment.
A couple of other anecdotes that they told me about.  As part of the standard training package (the training seems to be very similar regardless of the type of kandak that is being fielded). They have the guys shoot at 25 yards, this is not a battle, sight zero range, they don’t zero their weapons properly, they just shoot at the target.  A few soldiers are selected to be snipers and they shoot a few additional shots at about 100 yards.  There was one guy who did not hit paper at all and they tested his vision to find out that he was blind in the eye that he was putting to the sniper scope.
Most of the countries send a training team up here to mentor their afghans while they are  in training, just as the afghans at Pol-i-charai barracks are being mentored by all of the permanent staff here. Sometimes that does not happen, so there is an emergency on-hand mentor team here.  They are Jordanians and because they are not going to be fielded with the kandaks that they are training, they do not give a shit what happens to them.  There are also Croats here, no one can tell me what they actually do. I seems like a lot of the time of the Brits, Aussies and Americans is spent mentoring these other countries in their jobs as well as mentoring the ANA. What a cluster-fuck.
Apparently the commander was offered a general’s star and command, but he was very comfortable where he is and he has worked himself into the community, so he had no desire to be promoted, I am sure there is a booming business here with all of the men and material that move through here. 
We had a walk through the motor pool today.  The gear that these guys are getting is amazing. Brand new rangers, dump trucks, international flat beds, bulldozers, graters, wreckers, howitzers.  A total of 138 pieces of rolling-stock the convoy is probably going to be longer than 20km.  this is truly a stuff solution.  Magically though some of it has already been pilfered, a bobcat skid-steer is missing, half of the RPGs that they are supposed to have, and a bunch of the comm gear.  I am sure that none of it went to the Taliban…

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