Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I pledge allegiance to ...

At the Turkish-run Gazi Training Center, 400 Afghan National Army recruits stood in the hot sun waiting to swear their commitment to the service of their country. Half-way through their eight week basic training course, the trainees were participating in an oath-swearing ceremony, promising to protect and defend Afghanistan.

The ceremony reminded me of an event in my own Air Force basic military training almost seven years ago; since then, basic training has been extended and changed to match the skills Airmen enlisting today would need, but back then, we had something called a coin ceremony. In our fifth week of training, known as “warrior week” trainees are sent out for a week-long field exercise. At the conclusion, each of us was presented with an Airman’s coin, symbolizing our transition from “trainee” to “Airman.” Patriotic music played in the background and our drill instructors who had yelled at us, pushed us and motivated us (sometimes out of fear) congratulated us on our hard work and achievements. I know for many, including myself, it was a proud and moving moment. It was also the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel; it meant we had made it through BMT and provided we didn’t royally screw up the rest of the time, we would be graduating.

The ANA ceremony, while a lot different, was still a very cool experience – I hope the trainees felt the same motivation my fellow trainees and I felt when we received our coins. The patriotic music playing in the background, the marching and presence of leadership was all very similar; but they took it a step further. Each trainee placed one hand on a table and one on the trainee next to him and swore that he would defend and protect his country. They were sharp and crisp in their movements, and the oath was said in unison.

For four-week trainees, I was very impressed. Their marching was better than that of some of the eight-week graduating classes I’ve seen.The Gazi Training Center has been considered a success since it began operating in February 2010. With a 27 Turkish instructors and 28 Afghan instructors, the teacher to student ratio is only 1-to-8, much lower than the 1-to-50 (and often, more) ratio at the much larger Kabul Military Training Center nearby. The additional trainers allow instructors more hands on time with students. The first graduating class - more than 600 trainees - had a 38 percent literacy rate; the average graduating class at KMTC may have about 18 percent and literacy training has been dropped from the course to allow for more time on infantry-essential skills such as marksmanship.

The Turkish have been so successful in their training effort that after this class graduates in June, they’re going to switch from running a basic training program to teaching a non-commissioned officer course. I have no doubt they’ll be churning out skilled, literate NCO’s to help lead the Afghan Army in no time at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment