March 18, 2014, CAMP SHORABAK, Afghanistan – Marines with Combat Logistics Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 7, recently conducted training with Afghan mechanics with the Regional Logistics Support Company, 215th Corps, Afghan National Army, aboard Camp Shorabak, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
The training is part of a two-week specialized maintenance surge to assist the ANA mechanics in preparing their vehicles for the upcoming Afghan presidential elections in order to ensure mobility for the security forces. It will also enable the sustainability of their capabilities and equipment.
“The primary purpose of the Marine mechanics being on Shorabak is to increase the ANA’s security capability during the elections,” said Capt. Julius Oreiro, RLSC Maintenance Company advisor, Regional Command (Southwest). “The success of the elections is highly dependent on the security of the Afghan people. Our team’s primary goal is to increase Afghan confidence and trust in the ANA’s security capability throughout the elections.”
One of the ways the Marines are working to accomplish this goal is by teaching the ANA how to conduct proper maintenance on their vehicles.
“The maintenance surge is the side-by-side cooperation and mentoring of ANA mechanics by Marine mechanics,” said Oreiro.
“The ANA mechanics are capable of learning the complex process of repairing the vehicles through mirroring and observation. The majority of the ANA mechanics aren’t school-trained. Their training is derived from on-the-job training. Marine mechanics are able to demonstrate skills that may not be taught to them during their maintenance routines.”
Even though there are translators available to help alleviate the language barrier, both the Marines and ANA still faced some challenges while working together.
“Most of the Afghans don’t read or write, so the problem is if I can’t write it down, then I take pictures,” said Warrant Officer Steven W. Pugh, Motor Transportation Maintenance officer in charge, CLC, CLB-7, and native of Vancouver, Wash. “I’ll take pictures of each step, such as removing a transmission, then print the pictures out and give it to the Afghans to help with teaching them how to work on these vehicles. It is something that is more enduring. A lot of these guys like to fix trucks. They like what they do and are anxious to help.”
When the Marines first arrived to begin the training, they were paired up with ANA mechanics and have been working together.
“We’re very happy,” said Abdul Wakilzada, shop chief, RLSC, 215th Corps, ANA. “It’s really helpful to us. They are teaching very important jobs to us, and we like working with the Marines.”
Sergeant Jeffrey S. Watkins, Motor Transportation Maintenance shop chief, CLC, CLB-7, and native of Marlin, Texas, is the lead advisor for the maintenance training conducted on the ANA vehicles. He said he makes an effort to answer any questions the ANA have in regards to diagnostics and maintenance performed on their vehicles.
“The training is going better than expected,” said Watkins. “When triaging the condition of their vehicles, our task seemed daunting, but when the actual maintenance kicked off we all quickly fell onto the same page and were able to work together in accomplishing our mission. We are making our best effort to teach them what we know in regard to tactical vehicle maintenance to make them as proficient as possible in our trade before we leave Afghanistan. The saying, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime’ definitely applies to the training we are conducting.”
As the training comes to an end and the elections near, the ANA will be more prepared and capable of handling their own vehicle maintenance.
“The skills learned during the two weeks will be retained by the ANA mechanics working side by side with Marine mechanics allowing them to continue to refine and pass on the newly acquired maintenance knowledge,” said Oreiro. “These are some of the most sufficient and efficient ANA mechanics, and they are capable of conducting maintenance at their level. At the end of the day, the ANA is responsible and accountable for their own country’s success and security, keeping in mind that the mechanic skills learned from the surge will indirectly influence the overall readiness to provide security for its people.”