Top U.S. Enlisted Soldier Advises Afghan NCOs
By Sgt. Mason T. Lowery, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 25, 2005 The top enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army arrived here earlier this month to discuss soldier issues with Afghan National Army senior noncommissioned officers.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston met with two of the ANA's highest-ranking NCOs Oct. 11 and discussed themes universal to every nation's soldiers.
Preston's visit corresponded with the ANA Corps Commanders Conference. As ANA commanders presented their topics, Preston and ANA NCOs talked about their soldiers. Preston's visit, he said, signified the importance of the ANA's NCO corps to Afghanistan's future and how NCOs are making a difference.
Afghan Sgts. Maj. Daud, 201st Corps command sergeant major, and Shamsadin, 3rd Brigade, 201st Corps command sergeant major, talked with Preston about soldier training, living conditions, medical and family benefits, morale and pay.
As sergeant major of the Army, Preston travels throughout the U.S. Army studying and addressing the same issues affecting U.S. soldiers and their families. Shamsadin and Daud recognized Preston's experience in helping soldiers and used his visit as an opportunity to learn how to improve conditions for their own soldiers.
Shamsadin talked about the value of the ANA's professional soldiers. "If we don't treat our soldiers right, we'll lose them," he said.
Preston said the same principles apply to retain high-quality soldiers in the United States, especially after moving from a conscripted force to an all-volunteer army.
Daud talked about terrorists within Afghanistan's borders. He explained to Preston that they come from the same towns and villages as ANA soldiers, sometimes living next door to soldiers' families. "We need to make the army stronger than the terrorists," he said.
Preston asked Shamsadin how often his soldiers get to train. Shamsadin replied: "The training is not bad. They've been training since the Taliban was overthrown."
He added that his soldiers need new equipment as they move away from Soviet-era tactics. Preston assured him that new equipment is coming.
Shamsadin told Preston about some of his soldiers' missions and seemed proud of the proficiency they've gained and accomplishments alongside coalition soldiers. "They were accepted as 'soldiers' by your Special Forces," he said proudly.
Preston told the two sergeants major that he has seen a lot of improvement in the ANA since he started visiting Afghanistan. Shamsadin agreed and said, "We're not perfect, but we get better every day. It takes time."
"We're not perfect either," Preston said. "When we have problems, we fix them."
It's all about making progress, Preston said. "It's like football. In football, you try to move the ball down the field," he said.
"You should be proud of all you've done. There will be days when it's hard. You might ask yourself, 'Why am I doing this?'" Preston said. "It's worth it when you look back on all you've done for your soldiers."
(Army Sgt. Mason T. Lowery is assigned to the Office of Security Cooperation Afghanistan.)