U.S. Troops Mentor Afghan Artillery Platoon
By Petty Officer 1st Class David M. Votroubek, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
QALAT, Afghanistan, Jan. 9, 2008 A smiling jester grins down from their ballcaps, but the soldiers who wear them are all business. And when they go looking for a fight in Afghanistan’s Zabul province, the big guns that cover them are no joke either.
Sgt. Roholluh, from the 4th Kandak of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps, sights a D-30 howitzer. The howitzer is part of a three-gun battery on forward operating base Wolverine, which supports Afghan National Army and coalition military operations against insurgents in Afghanistan’s southern Zabul province. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class David M. Votroubek, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Formally, they’re known as the 4-2 Embedded Training Team, but they started calling themselves the “Crazy 98s” during training as Embedded Training Team Class 9806 at Fort Riley, Kan. And though the team has an easy demeanor, they’re very serious about their job of training the 4th Kandak of the Afghan National Army’s 205th Corps.
When the Crazy 98s got to Afghanistan in February, the 4th Kandak’s Field Artillery Platoon was far less capable than it is now, enlisted mentor Army Sgt. 1st Class David Trice said. They had mortar skills, but they weren’t able to use the howitzers for direct fire, let alone shooting at unseen targets.
Over the last 10 months, Trice and officer mentor Army Capt. Dave Sadovy have trained the Afghans on the D-30 howitzer, which can fire a 122 mm shell more than 15,000 meters. The mentors also had to teach the artillerymen how to calculate range and deflection manually, because the Afghan army doesn’t use many computers. Two officers in the kandak’s field artillery platoon now can calculate fire missions.
One of them is Capt. Arzee Hussein, who has worked with artillery for three years. Hussein said he thinks his training has been good enough that he can now do fire missions without help from the mentors.
The Crazy 98s show their confidence in the Afghan gunners. During one recent mission, team commander Army Maj. Trent Darling had shells landing within 1,500 meters of his position. Trice gives the Afghan soldiers a lot of credit.
“They have bright soldiers over there,” Trice said of the 4th Kandak.
One of those soldiers is platoon sergeant Paywand Ali, who said a previous American mentor named Dickinson taught him how to shoot the 82 mm mortar and the British 130 mm mortar. He said he likes being an artilleryman because of the advantage of high explosives during a battle.
“The enemy can shoot 100 bullets from an (AK-47 assault rifle), but I can win with one 122 mm shell,” he said with a grin. “Artillery wins the firefight.”
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class David M. Votroubek serves with Combined Security Transition Command Public Affairs.)