U.S. Military Academy Helps to Build Afghanistan's 'West Point'
By Lt. Col. David Wallace, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
KABUL, Afghanistan, Jul. 21, 2004 Teams of officers from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and officers from the Office of Military Cooperation Afghanistan are working closely with their Afghan counterparts in the country's defense ministry to establish the National Military Academy of Afghanistan and model it after West Point.
The Military Academy Implementation Support Team in Afghanistan
conducts a candidate interview with Shoaib Yosousfzai, who was chosen for a U.S.
Military Academy preparatory scholarship program. From left to right are Lt. Col.
Donna Brazil, USMA department of behavioral science and leadership; team chief Col.
Barry Shoop, department of electrical engineering and computer science; Lt. Col. David
Wallace, department of law; and Yosousfzai. Army photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The purpose of the NMAA, officials said, is to provide the Afghan National Army with professional officers who support and defend the Afghan constitution.
The effort began in August, when Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, then chief of the Office of Military Cooperation in Afghanistan, sought help from the U.S. Military Academy in establishing a National Military Academy of Afghanistan. USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr. sent Col. George B. Forsythe, vice dean for education, and Lt. Col. Casey Neff, special assistant to the commandant for systems and planning, to assist with the effort.
For a six-week period starting in October, Forsythe, Neff and other international officers joined a working group from the Afghan Ministry of Defense to work in Kabul to produce a concept plan that would serve as the blueprint for the new military academy. The plan outlined the NMAA's mission and purpose: the academy's academic, military and physical developmental programs, a cadet leader development system, an honor code and more.
Officials said the concept plan envisions a rigorous four-year program that should prepare professional officers for service in the ANA and to the Afghan nation. The academic program is designed to establish the intellectual foundation for service as a commissioned officer, they added, and the plan explains how academic study develops in NMAA cadets the knowledge and skills necessary for service and continued growth as an officer.
During their first year at the NMAA, cadets will take courses in chemistry, information technology, composition, calculus, world history, and introduction to the military profession, among others. Under the concept plan, the NMAA's military program will provide an organized framework for sequential and progressive military training and leadership development.
The ink hardly dried on the concept plan before a second team arrived from West Point to begin working on implementation. Lt. Col. Donna Brazil and Maj. Bill Caruso, both from the behavioral science and leadership department, developed a detailed implementation plan and identified a temporary site for the new academy. They also screened a pool of Afghan candidates for the USMA Class of 2008.
Brazil returned to work with the current team in June. Col. Barry Shoop, chief of the current team, is a professor of electrical engineering and director of the electrical engineering program at West Point. The other member of the current team is Lt. Col. David Wallace, a faculty member in the law department.
"The work we are doing here in Afghanistan is important to the future success of the Army and the nation," said Shoop. "A national military academy will teach a nascent Afghan National Army officer corps about their new constitution, civilian leadership of the military, what it means to be a member of the profession of arms, and to instill the values of duty, honor and country and of selfless service to the nation."
During the most recent term, much as been done to move the NMAA toward its opening in February 2005. For example, the selection process for the NMAA's key leaders moved forward. Within a relatively short amount of time, the Afghans will move forward with the board selection process and appointment of the NMAA's key leadership, including the commander, the deputy commander for education, commandant, chief of staff, director of admissions, and the department heads for language, history, social sciences, management and leadership, military studies, mathematics, basic sciences, information systems engineering, and religion and culture.
The team developed and provided department head duty descriptions and credentials, faculty recruiting, selection, and credentials, a faculty development program and a computer network architecture. The West Point officers also worked on the admissions process for the new military academy, outlining key considerations for the first class and beyond.
The current West Point team also screened and interviewed six Afghan candidates for admission to the U.S. Military Academy. One candidate, Shoaib Yosoufzai, has been selected for a West Point preparatory scholarship program. He will study at a civilian university in the United States for a year to better prepare him for possible admission to the U.S. Military Academy next year.
The Afghan defense minister designated the former Air Academy near the Kabul airport as the temporary site of the NMAA, and renovations to the facility are scheduled to begin soon. The first entering class for the new academy is projected to be 100 students, with most of them likely coming from the Kabul Military High School.
(Army Lt. Col. David Wallace is assigned to the U.S. Military Academy's law department.)