HERAT PROVINCE, Afghanistan – For the first time, Afghan National Army commandos partnered with the Afghan National Air Force to conduct joint operations training outside a coalition forces camp in Herat province, Oct. 29.
The purpose of the training between the ANAF and the Afghan National Army’s 2nd Company, 9th Commando Kandak was to rehearse battle drills such as requesting air assets. The exercise also helped to improve the working relationship between the two elite branches of the Afghan National Security Forces.
During the training, the ANAF used MI-17 helicopters to transport commandos to and from a landing zone, based on information given to them by the Kandak, while the commandos practiced air and ground operations.
The MI-17s circled above the landing zone outside the nearby coalition camp, communicating over the radio with the commandos on the ground, so they could determine a time and location for troop drop-off.
“Not only were the aircraft crewed and piloted by members of the [ANAF], but the coordination from the ground was also done by the [ANA commandos],” said a coalition special operations forces team member. “That’s a huge step and, although there were advisors on both sides, everything was done by Afghans.”
Once the helicopters touched down, the commandos on board charged out the back hatch and set up a 360 degree security bubble around the landing zone. Once security was established, the helicopters departed the site and the commandos formed into patrol formations to carry out their ground exercise.
The ground movements were more focused on missions the Commandos normally carry out throughout the province while providing security to Afghan citizens.
“The security and protection provided by the 9th Commando Kandak comes entirely from the men within it,” said the coalition SOF team member. “The 9th Commando Kandak is a highly professional force that all of Afghanistan should take pride in.”
Following their patrol, the commandos came together to critique the exercise. This was the only point where coalition SOF members actively intervened, giving the commando leadership a better understanding of how they can improve their skills.
The final phase of training was the re-board and exit exercise, where commandos marked the landing zone for incoming MI-17s with colored smoke then boarded the aircraft and headed back to the camp.
The 2nd Company commander, Capt. Mohammad Bakar, stated he was very pleased with the training, pointing out that this was their first time performing such training.
“The more we do this training, the more it will help to prevent casualties,” Bakar said.
Once the commandos and air crews have the tactical aspects mastered, the planning and coordination of operations will keep progressing to higher levels, lending to more complex and challenging missions.
“Eventually, we would like to see them progress enough, where requests for air circulate from the Kandak to the aircrew entirely through Afghan channels,” said the coalition SOF team member.
The Afghan government, with coalition force assistance, is providing training for their air and ground forces, enabling them to eventually take over security throughout the country. While air power is not an abundant asset at this time, this day’s training established a foundation for continued growth of the ANAF by giving the 2nd Company commandos the knowledge and capabilities to employ helicopter missions as soon as they become more available.
“By conducting this training more frequently, the commandos will be better prepared when they take over from the [coalition],” Bakar stated.