By Christen McCluney
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2010 " Leaders in Afghanistan are working with the country`s security forces and NATO trainers and advisors to develop noncommissioned officers.
There is nothing more important to the professionalization of the Afghan national security force than the development of its leaders, " Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph R. Beam of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, said during an Oct. 21 DOD Live " bloggers roundtable.
Beam said that the development and growth of the security force will ensure advances will be sustainable and enduring. One of the biggest challenges, he said, is personnel management and the ability to sustain a professional corps of skilled and qualified NCOs.
Developing NCOs is a time-consuming, intensive process that requires education, skilled Afghan and coalition trainers, leader development and operational experience, " he said. Poorly trained NCOs have a direct impact on mission accomplishment and effectiveness of the force, and in the end, it impacts on morale, welfare, and the confidence of subordinates. "
The training begins with a four-week team leader course after basic training. The next level is the One Uniform Course, which fast-tracks Afghans from civilian to the equivalent of a U.S. Army staff sergeant in a 12-week block of training. Beam said first sergeant and sergeant major courses also are available, and that at any given time 4,000 Afghan NCOs are in training.
Still, the security force has a shortfall of about 12,000 NCOs, Beam said, based on training capacity, retention and soldiers being wounded or killed in action.
We project -- based on what we recruit, and based on what we are able to put through and train -- that by October 2011, he shortage will probably be down to about 7,300, " he said.
One of the major factors in the shortage, he said, is literacy. The Afghans placed a literacy requirement on certain courses, he explained, and that`s preventing some people from being able to take them.
He added that one of the biggest successes with the training program is that most of it is Afghan-led.
You do have NATO instructors there, " he said. But, in most cases on the NCO side of it, it`s Afghans in the lead, and they`re doing pretty well at it. "
Beam said he is optimistic that the Afghan forces and the NATO training mission will achieve their shared vision for the future, having Afghanistan secured by trained Afghan leaders.
We have to train our way out of the conflict, " he said. That`s what we`re trying to do right now, and I think we`re doing pretty good at it. "