KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The stress that accompanies the first few days in the armed services is familiar to most Soldiers, but few can identify with the Afghan National Army recruits at Camp Parsa, in Khost province who undergo the transition from citizen to soldier in an active war zone.
Of the six ANA basic training locations throughout Afghanistan, Camp Parsa is unique being the only major basic training center where an active enemy wage war nearby, said ANA Lt. Col. Abdul Ahmed, executive officer, Training Kandak, 1st Brigade.
Ahmed said last year the installation received incoming attacks from insurgents almost daily, one of which killed a recruit.
While security in the area has improved drastically since then, recruits still face sporadic incoming attacks and hear outgoing artillery from U.S. Soldiers in the nearby Camp Clark, both of which “complicate the minds” of recruits, Ahmed said.
Not every aspect of basic training in a war zone is negative, Ahmed said.
Once, he said, enemy forces fired on recruits who were clearing a training range, but seeing that the troops were armed, the enemy turned and ran. The trainee’s weapons weren’t loaded, Ahmed said.
“I was laughing and I was so happy that the enemy was so weak that they couldn’t stand against us,” Ahmed said with the aid of an interpreter.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Derek Macleod, normally a drill sergeant at Fort Sill, is currently deployed to Camp Parsa as a combat training advisor to the Training Kandak. He said despite the combat environment there is much in Afghan basic training that U.S. troops would find familiar.
“What they’ve done is pretty much taken our basic training and mirrored it,” he said.
Afghan basic training lasts about two months. As in U.S. Army basic training, recruits start by learning drill and ceremony, military heritage, then advance to more complicated tasks like squad movements, battle drills, and weapons training.
On a typical day, Afghan recruits train throughout the morning before breaking for lunch, prayer and rest. They then return to training and end the day with drill and ceremony.
Macleod said the military heritage part of the training provides positive reinforcement to Soldiers who might be committed to the goals of the Afghan National Security Forces, but joined for other motives such as a steady income.
Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Johnson, combat training advisor to the Training Kandak, said this reinforcement is an invaluable necessity.
“Not that anyone here is an enemy but they might be indecisive,” Johnson said, adding that the hope is that the indecisive can be “tipped in the right direction.”
“We try to guide them, let them know that they are part of something bigger than themselves,” he said.
ANA Staff Sgt. Mahamat Parwiz, a drill instructor for the Training Kandak, said he believes most of the troops in Training Kandak come with the right intentions already in mind.
“The ANA is from Afghans and for Afghans, so they are here to defend their country,” Parwiz said.
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