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In response to a U.S. Forces Afghanistan request to U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army Engineer School sent a team to assess the Afghan National Army (ANA) engineer school in March 2017. The Engineer School team members were Colonel Kevin S. Brown, Mr. James R. Rowan, and Dr. Michael A. Dascanio. The team was pleased and impressed with the ANA engineer school and the training it provides to the army.

The ANA engineer school is located at Camp Shaheen, west of the city of Mazar-E-Sharif. This location is a double-edged sword: At the time the assessment team visited, it was considered a relatively peaceful, stable part of the country, but its far northern location makes it a challenge for ANA units to get students to and from the training site. ANA leaders have made great progress since the school became operational in 2010. The facilities are first-rate for the ANA and were constructed through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 2011 to 2014 for 29 million [euro] (about $34 million). The school footprint includes headquarters, administrative space, soldier barracks, classrooms, and motor pools. The facilities have mostly been well maintained, and they fully meet the school requirements.

The school trains more than 20 courses in many specialties. There is a clear link between ANA doctrine and the requirements of the courses being taught at the school. There are courses for enlisted soldiers, basic and advanced noncommissioned officer courses, and basic and advanced commissioned officer courses. The ANA engineer school also trains explosive ordnance disposal skills and a follow-on course in improvised explosive device disposal. The training we observed in these counter explosive hazards courses is an appropriate mix of classroom and hands-on instruction using current metal detectors and robotics. A live demolitions range, which is part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Course was in use during our visit. Perhaps it isn't surprising that such courses are not the most popular among ANA students due to the hazardous duties they will execute once they return to their units.

A heavy-equipment operator course is also conducted at Camp Shaheen. The equipment is new and modern, consisting of bulldozers, skid steer loaders, hydraulic excavators, compaction equipment, and other equipment. The ANA school has excellent access to ranges and training areas at Camp Shaheen. Its "Million-Dollar Hole" is not as extensive as the one at Fort Leonard Wood, but many of the same skills are taught to junior soldiers. The ANA has identified the need for a heavy-equipment supervisor course, and it was scheduled to begin in April 2017.

One of the highlights of the ANA engineer school is the facilities maintenance course. The coalition has made a significant investment in facilities for the ANA, which ultimately will be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. The facilities maintenance course teaches skills that include plumbing; electrical work; welding; carpentry; concrete and masonry; and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning repair. The hands-on training seemed to be effective, and the graduates should have the skills and tools to execute the maintenance work at ANA facilities across the country. The heavy-equipment operator and facilities maintenance courses are very popular with students because of the skills they will have upon graduation.

The ANA engineer school commander, who has been at the school since its inception, spoke to us about the many challenges that ANA leaders still face. One challenge is filling courses to capacity. ANA units get quotas for each course but often fail to send students. Reasons vary from units being too busy with combat missions to an inability to get students to the school's remote location. The ANA engineer school also struggles greatly with illiteracy among its students. Some basic literacy training takes place, but it isn't enough to turn the tide. The problem is further complicated by the language and cultural differences among members of the ANA.

The ANA engineer school appears to be well ahead of the other branch schools in Afghanistan, largely due to a robust on-site advisory team from the Combined Advise and Assist Team-North. The team is composed of a lieutenant colonel from the German Army, a captain and noncommissioned officer from the Romanian Land Forces, and a noncommissioned officer from the Latvian National Armed Forces. Each has special skills to effectively advise on different portions of the curriculum. The United States has attached an Army major to this team; the major advises on the facilities maintenance courses.

The sustainability of the ANA engineer school is the most important issue to be addressed. While the school leaders operate fairly well today, they are very dependent on the coalition for advice, curriculum development, and resourcing. There are currently 15 instructors operating under a coalition contract. The coalition also provides virtually all of the supplies, maintenance, and equipment required for the courses. The long-term plan is for the ANA to become self-sufficient, but its leaders acknowledge that this may not be possible for at least several years. In the end, the school will only be successful if it can be transitioned to a facility that is owned and resourced by the ANA, rather than an enterprise that is heavily subsidized by the coalition.

Colonel Brown is the assistant commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School. He previously served as the Director of Training and Leader Development and commanded the Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82d Airborne Division.

Mr. Rowan is the deputy commandant at the U.S. Army Engineer School. He has served at the Engineer School headquarters for the past 8 years and previously commanded the 1st Engineer Brigade.

Dr. Dascanio has been the technical director at the U.S. Army Engineer School for more than a decade and is a subject matter expert in training and training development.

By Colonel Kevin S. Brown, Mr. James R. Rowan, and Dr. Michael A. Dascanio

Caption: ANA engineer school facilities

Caption: ANA engineer school improvised explosive device disposal training

Caption: U.S. Army Engineer School assessment team

Caption: ANA engineer school heavy-equipment training

Caption: ANA engineer facilities maintenance training
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Author:Brown, Kevin S.; Rowan, James R.; Dascanio, Michael A.
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Date:Sep 1, 2017
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