CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
They say knowledge is power, and in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, U.S. Marines are giving Afghan forces the knowledge of power.
Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 are training Afghan soldiers and police in generator maintenance and basic electrician skills.
“Everyone says transition is the mission,” said Cpl. Raymond Hewitt, a generator mechanic and instructor for the course. “This gives us a chance to take part in that. I never thought I’d be able to train Afghan troops, and I’m glad I got it.”
Hewitt and three other Marines with MWSS-272, all deployed from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., have been conducting the training at Camp Leatherneck’s Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest. Coalition forces train Afghan troops at the academy in a number of specialties, ranging from explosive ordnance demolition to driving skills.
“They came here with a good attitude – they came to learn,” said Hewitt, a native of Lowville, N.Y. “They’re getting a lot of information here, and it’s all about the fundamentals.”
Hewitt said the training the Afghan soldiers and police received, included the basics of generator maintenance and mechanics, as well as instruction on electrical wiring.
“Another huge thing we’re stressing is safety,” he added.
Staff Sgt. Raul V. Padron-Martin, an electrician with MWSS-272, and the lead instructor for the course said the focus of the training is to give the Afghan forces the basic knowledge they need for sustainment.
“With the certificate in their hands, they’ll be able to say, ‘I can do this,” said Padron-Martin, a Miami native. “By the time they’ve finished this class, everything they take back with them, they’ll be good to go.”
“I’ve learned a lot out here. I’ve learned about generators, and about connecting wires,” said Noor Mohammad Armani, an Afghan Border Police officer enrolled in the course who said his interest in it came from repairing vehicles. “Most of the time, before, if we had a problem with a generator, we would have to wait on someone to fix it. Now I’m a mechanic for cars, and a mechanic for generators.”
Hewitt said that after completing the course, the Afghan service members would no longer have to wait on a civilian contractor or hire a mechanic to troubleshoot and repair a generator.
“It makes them more self sufficient,” he said.
Padron-Martin said as part of the course the Afghan soldiers and police were given both a written test – on which the lowest scoring student missed only three out of 17 questions, and a practical application test.
For the practical application, the students were given 15 minutes to troubleshoot a malfunctioning generator. Within minutes, Padron-Martin said, the Afghan students had dissected the generator to its basic components and localized the problem.
“They broke that thing down like it was cool,” said Padron-Martin.
The Marines said though they were happy to have the opportunity to share their expertise with Afghan National Army soldiers and police, they also learned much about the Afghan forces, something Hewitt said has given him a “newfound respect” for the Afghan troops.
“I respect them, a lot of them joined [the military] for the same reasons I did. They want to take pride in their country,” said Hewitt. “I hope one day they can have a great military, and be a great country. They want independence.
“We have a lot in common,” Hewitt added. “When I asked why they served, a lot of them said to better their lives, and to provide better lives for their children. That’s every father’s dream.”
The Marine instructors said above all, they enjoyed the opportunity to relay their experiences to the Afghan forces. Though combat skills are vitally important, they said, teaching other military occupational specialties helps in promoting the sustainment Afghan forces will need for transition.
“The future generations will know that Marines were once in Afghanistan,” said Armani. “They’ll know they were tough, and they were good – and that they helped people.”
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