Saturday, February 14, 2009

Marines mentor, forge close ties with Afghan National Police

Date written: Feb. 11, 2009
Story by Lance Cpl. Brian D. Jones

SHOUZ, Herat Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Five U.S. Marine noncommissioned officers are making a difference in the lives of Afghans through their personal interaction with Afghan National Police recruits at the Shouz Police Training Center in Herat Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The select group of Marines from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, have been working closely with the ANP and its recruits, assisting in mentoring and instructing since mid-January. Their goal is simple: help the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan develop a sustainable police force.

“I actually feel like we are making a difference out here,” said Sgt. Nicholas Fagerquist, the senior NCO among the five Marines. “We’re not even finished yet and (the policemen) have great military discipline, they’re eager to learn, they’re motivated, they’re being proactive opposed to being reactive, and that’s something you don’t usually see.”

American law enforcement instructors lead the eight-week program at Shouz, while empowering Afghan police instructors to train the Afghan police recruits. Stepping in to lead by example, the Marines offer their help to the students and instructors assisting them in meeting the required training objectives. The cadre of Marines invoke leadership qualities among the students by doing what Marines do best: teaching the ANP recruits how to step up and take a leadership role among their peers.

“We make them realize that (being a policeman) is more than a (paycheck), it’s a big responsibility,” said Cpl. Thomas A. Moss.

The American law enforcement instructors at Shouz utilize the Marines’ skills for teaching military tactics, techniques and procedures.

Together, they’re trying to develop a police force that can both apprehend criminals and suppress insurgent attacks.

“It’s not like in the United States where a cop responds to a call,” Moss said. “They have to deal with drug smugglers more often, and they have to deal with people attacking their compound.”

The cadre of Marines has firsthand knowledge of the situations the ANP are faced with here and recognizes which training objectives need to be emphasized based on their own experience patrolling with the ANP in different districts. Because of this, the Marines add valuable insight to the American law enforcement instructors’ approach to training the ANP.

The Marines’ efforts go well beyond the classroom. The Marines have developed close working relationships with the ANP instructors and recruits at the training center through the help of interpreters. Through conversation, they have found common ground between them and have built strong bonds.

“I feel we have built a really good bridge with the working relationships between us and the (Afghans),” said Fagerquist. “I’ve never had any problem with the Afghan locals, and now I enjoy working with them even more.”

Moss said, when the Marines first met the recruits they were shunned by them and the recruits didn’t want to speak to them, but the tables have turned. The Afghans now have a greater understanding of what the Marines’ role is within their country and now not only trust them but genuinely like them as well.

“They’re no longer students, they’re coworkers,” said Fagerquist.

Once training is complete the Marines plan to return to the Afghan provinces with the newly trained police.

“It’s going to show the (communities) that Marines are here, we do care, and we are here to help them and enable them to be a better country,” said Moss. “We’re not here to be an occupying force. We are here to help them out to the best capacity that we can.”

“We know that most of these guys really do care about their province and they’re not just here to make money,” said Moss. “They actually want to make their community better.”

The Marines continue to train and mentor the ANP in order to provide the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan with an effective, sustainable and professional police force. As the ANP become capable of sustaining security and force development, Marines will turn more responsibilities over to them.

“I know they’re going to help us out more and vice versa,” said Fagerquist. “They’re not just looking the role, they’re being the role. I know it’s going to increase the tempo of the missions of really hammering down on the bad guys.”
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