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New Gear for Afghan Commandos

To a U.S. Soldier, the weapons and equipment on any base in Afghanistan would look familiar. The difference is they are now in the hands of Afghan soldiers. The Afghan National Army’s (ANA’s) 1st Commando Kandak (Battalion) has completed its training, and its soldiers have received the same equipment U.S. Soldiers use.

The field-issue items and personal weapons used by the 1st Commando Kandak are modeled after a U.S. Army ranger battalion’s organizational equipment. All six of the ANA commando kandaks will be equipped similarly, which will make interoperability and standardized training much easier.

U.S. weapons and equipment were chosen for their reliability, their obtainability, and the commando trainers’ familiarity with them. Quick procurement is important because the ANA expects to have all six of its commando kandaks equipped and trained by September.

The kandak soldiers are being issued new weapons—including M4 carbines, M240 machineguns, and M249 squad automatic weapons—communications equipment, clothing, sleeping gear, and field equipment. The kandaks will even have portable kitchens for cooking hot meals in the field.

With the assistance of the ANA leaders, the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC–A) identified what the commandos needed and procured it. This took a tremendous amount of coordination. The CSTC–A supplied the ANA from its logistics and supply stocks, but many items needed to be obtained quickly through U.S. Department of Defense foreign military sales. It was truly a team effort among CSTC–A’s mentors at Camp Morehead in Kabul Province, contracting personnel, legal advisors, comptrollers, and logistics personnel.

The security assistance office in CSTC–A’s CJ–4 logistics section worked behind the scenes to get new equipment fielded. The CJ–4 staff spent many personal hours researching and calling vendors to complete purchases on time. By paying close attention to both the needs and budget cycles, CJ–4 was able to obtain materiel in 2007 that would have not been funded until 2008 or 2009.

The Afghan commandos worked hard to make the transition successful. They not only learned how to use the new weapons and radios but also produced almost 300 more trainees than anticipated. The commander of the 1st Commando Kandak, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammad Farid Ahmadi, believes that his unit worked out supply and logistics issues that will make it easier for the next kandak.

CSTC–A made history when the 1st Commando Kandak graduated on 26 July 2007. It was the first ANA unit to be completely trained and equipped with U.S. gear, but it will not be the last. After six commando kandaks are trained by CSTC–A, the ANA will assume the mission of training commandos at Camp Morehead.

Petty Officer First Class David Votroubek, USNR, is a Navy photojournalist assigned to the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He holds a B.A. degree in Christian ministry from Puget Sound Christian College and is a graduate of the Naval School of Photography.