Inbound Soldiers Will Help Afghan Mentoring, General Says
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 4, 2009 Inbound soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team will be a welcome addition for the Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix mission of mentoring and training Afghan soldiers and police officers, the task force commander said.
“I think the additional soldiers, mainly the 4th Brigade out of the 82nd, which is going to be the second brigade to fall under Phoenix, is going to be a great help to allow us to meet the requirements to staff the different … embedding training teams and police mentor teams,” Army Brig. Gen. Steven Huber told participants in a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable June 2.
Huber said the task force’s efforts are geared to helping Afghanistan’s security forces build sustainable capacity and attain the capability to protect the Afghan populace.
Huber, a 30-year member of the Illinois National Guard, said about 3,000 Guardsmen from Illinois serve in CJTF Phoenix, along with another 4,000 U.S. servicemembers and coalition and Afghan partners.
Despite those numbers, Huber said, the task force lacks the resources to meet all of the current requirements for the police districts that they are asked to cover.
“That causes us to make smaller teams,” he explained, “and some -- very few, but some districts … go uncovered or are delayed in getting their mentors.”
When the 82nd Airborne Division brigade arrives, Huber said, CJTF Phoenix should be able to satisfy its current mentoring and training responsibilities. Another brigade may be necessary later if Afghanistan’s army continues to grow beyond the current projection of 134,000 soldiers, he said.
Huber said the effort to grow Afghanistan’s security forces is on track. “It takes awhile, but training and fielding of units and equipment does take awhile, even in the United States,” he said. For example, he said, the effort to equip Afghanistan’s security forces with M-16 rifles is about one-third complete, and the Afghans now are receiving other equipment as well, such as Humvees.
“We’ve just started turning over those to them in lieu of their pickup trucks,” he said, “which they really love and prefer to drive.”
Noting that a force needs good leaders to be effective, Huber cited the June 2 opening of a new noncommissioned officers academy for Afghan sergeants major and first sergeants as an important development.
“I think that’s a huge step towards building an NCO corps that actually runs the army or makes it operate, and then allowing the officers to do the planning and guiding for the military,” the general said.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)