Afghan generals visit Keesler training facilities
By Tech. Sgt. Chuck Marsh , 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 21, 2007
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Several key communications leaders in the Afghan National Army toured Keesler Friday in order to gain an understanding of key areas for their communications training program.
Afghan National Army Maj. Gen. Mehrab Ali, Brig. Gen. Baba Mirza and Col. Said Farooq Yosuf Zai came to Keesler on an information gathering tour to learn about communications equipment in use by Airmen as well as the training methods and living facilities across the base.
General Ali is chief of communications for the general staff at the Ministry of Defense, Kabul, Afghanistan, General Mirza is director of automation and Colonel Zai is director of maintenance operations.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Scot MacKenzie, chief of the ANA communications division, and Air Force Maj. Martin Rudy, personnel and training mentor, lead a team of advisers to General Ali and his staff and accompanied the general on his tour.
"The Afghan soldiers that Colonel MacKenzie, I and others on our team work with are very anxious to learn," said Major Rudy. "They're anxious to adopt new technology and anxious to come into the information age with some of the things we've taken for granted like computers, internet access and IM (instant messaging). The enthusiasm they show for that is an inspiration."
The Afghan soldiers aren't the only ones enthusiastic about the future of communications in the ANA; the general himself is excited at the opportunity to raise the levels of training, equipment maintenance and the quality of life for his troops to higher standards.
"The training here is at a high level and the facilities are also at a high level," said General Ali. "Everything we saw here we will take back to Afghanistan."
The visit included a mission briefing of the 81st Training Group, tours at the 336th Training Squadron, 333rd TRS, 338th TRS and Foster Manor dormitories and concluded with a press conference attended by area media.
While touring the 338th TRS, the group stopped into several classrooms to view the learning environments and see the equipment on which the Airmen train.
One classroom of special interest to the group was the air support operations room where a Humvee has been assembled in the classroom and various mobile communications equipment is contained. Another room that caught the attention of the group was the supplemental training room where higher level maintenance is taught.
"We showed them the depth of maintenance we perform and how the supply process works for turning equipment in to the depot for repair," said Master Sgt. Edward Rush, a 338th TRS instructor. "I was surprised at the detail the colonel went into when we discussed the repair cycle and other supply aspects. He was truly interested in that process."
Sergeant Rush and his team of instructors, most of whom have recent deployment experience, also demonstrated the air expeditionary forces training where students are put in a "deployed" environment and must set up and operate five distinctive communications capabilities.
"There was definitely more pressure with the foreign generals here," said Airman 1st Class Shane Woolridge, a ground radio student in his final week of training. "It all went together, though, and it was cool to see the different military come through."
"I was surprised to see foreign generals come to our training area," said Airman 1st Class Kassandra Martzloff. "I never thought I'd see it. It is interesting though to see how curious they are in our training."
The plan for the general is to build a communications signal school for the ANA within the next two years. His tour of Keesler's facilities has helped to determine how to best accomplish this and to see what the rewards can be.
"We are very excited that we saw the training programs and facilities," said the general. "We like the system of your training -- it's step by step. We will try to do that for Afghanistan. We have the computer networks and satellite communications systems in Afghanistan. Our problem is that those systems were controlled by contractors, but now we want that control for our officers, sergeants and soldiers."
The general said that currently the ANA communications facilities, capabilities and training are about 50 percent of what the U.S. operates.
"We will go back and work to bring our levels higher than what we have," the general commented.
He's positive the soldiers back in Afghanistan will be very receptive of the new ideas they bring back and implement into their training regimen.
"They (ANA communications soldiers) will be happy," said the general. "They all want to learn, but now there isn't the capability for training. It is great the U.S. is helping us to learn. You can help bring the highest capability to our army and together we can work for peace in Afghanistan."
The opportunity to show off the quality of Keesler's Airmen and training facilities was welcomed by Col. Deborah Van De Ven, 81st TRG commander.
"It's been fascinating for us to host them," she said. "It reminds us of the capabilities and people we have and we are very proud to share that with them."