September 12th, 2007 05:21 EST
FORWARD OPERATING BASE MEHTAR LAM
Afghan instructors are training Afghan national police officers in a series of security forces classes here, while two American Airmen provide watchful mentorship.
The Afghan national police sustainment training is a giant step forward for the future of the Afghan National Army and the Afghan military, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Smith, Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team`s police technical adviser.
Sergeant Smith and Senior Airman Zackary Osborne, both deployed from Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., are mentors for the instructors.
"From this point on, the Afghans will have a more active role in the development of their police and security forces," he said. "In the past, coalition and government forces supplied the training to the Afghans, but now, as the instructors receive qualification, we can step back and let them train themselves."
The month-long classes cover a wide variety of security-related topics, such as arresting procedures and riot control, and are required by all first-year officers. Once the course is completed, the police officers are no longer considered "rookies" and are given a pay raise.
Already, Sergeant Smith said, he can see a difference within the classroom.
"The students` attention is held when the Afghans are instructing," he said. "They go through the material a lot faster, since nobody has to pause and wait for an interpreter to translate everything. And we can see how they are catching onto things a lot faster. At this point, all that we (Americans) do is stand back, observe and give suggestions every now and then. They are running the show."
The instructors were trained by a U.S. government-contracted security firm at the Regional Training Center in Jalalabad, a city east of Laghman Province where forward operating base Mehtar Lam is located. In a few months, construction will be complete on a provincial training center near the FOB, so more instructors can become trained and qualified locally.
"We will be able to hold our classes there at the PTC, rather than inside a tent on the FOB," said Sergeant Smith. "There all their training needs can take place."
These classes are only part of the Laghman PRT`s mission, which serves to provide international aid to the area via security backed by national and coalition forces, reconstruction projects and humanitarian aid delivery. They are also responsible for disarming and demobilizing militia forces and terrorist activity throughout the region with the help of the locals.
"I`m extremely proud of what my Airmen are doing here with the Afghan military and the Afghan police," said Lt. Col. Robert Ricci, the PRT commander deployed from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. "They have allowed the local authorities to expand their capabilities for security, and because of that, Laghman Province is a lot safer and that allows all of us to work harder to get this province, this country, on its feet."
by Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs