By 1ST LT. CHARLES MORGAN
Blackfoot Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment assisted the Afghan National Army in its continued growth toward independence during a recent mortar training evolution at Joint Combat Outpost Khilaguy in Afghanistan.
The training is part of a monumental strategy shift underway for troops in Afghanistan. Breaking from the experiences of past Army tours, the troops spent more time training and advising their Afghan counterparts, who in turn led the fight against insurgents and criminals.
For this particular mortar exercise, which is part of a larger slate of military tactics, Blackfoot Troop instructed its Afghan counterparts on firing the 60mm mortar system. The training included hours of classroom instruction and hands-on training exercises.
Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Zentz, the mortar section sergeant, explained “The instruction period for many of the mortar courses my men and I have attended range from a few weeks to several months. We had to teach a plethora of information into a shortened duration, ensuring that they comprehended all the knowledge with exercises to demonstrate that knowledge has been retained.”
Blackfoot Troop and 1st Kandak coordinated a range day for experience on establishing a mortar firing point, firing, and adjusting the 60mm mortar system to achieve accurate effects on the selected target. The troop trained the Afghan National Army on a new mortar system, building on skills the Afghans had acquired on a similar mortar system.
Sgt. Angel Garcia, a mortar section crew member, said the 1st KDK had experience with the 82mm mortar system and applied that knowledge in quickly adjusting to the 60mm mortars.
Zentz added that the ANA were adamant on using the knowledge they gained on the 60mm mortar system.
“After reviewing the hand held and the conventional method of direct lay, ANA mortar crews conducted a scenario-based exercise and were able to fire and adjust the M224 60mm mortar system,” Zentz said. “Seeing them put the knowledge to use made me feel as though my section truly made an impact by using hard learned knowledge and experience to teach them.”
Blackfoot Troop will continue to advise and assist the 1st KDK noncommissioned officers so they can continue serving in the lead as they fight for a stable Afghanistan.