Afghan Army Continues to Grow, Improve

WASHINGTON, April 20, 2011 — As he nears the end of his tour as deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al in charge of train­ing the Afghan Nation­al Army for NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan, Army Maj. Gen. Gary Pat­ton has seen some big changes.
Pat­ton updat­ed online jour­nal­ists par­tic­i­pat­ing in a “DOD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day on the growth the Afghan army has made dur­ing his tour.

“From a quan­ti­ty per­spec­tive, the Afghan army is grow­ing,” he said. “Between Feb­ru­ary and March, the army grew by 4,749. [It] cur­rent­ly sits at strength of 159,363 on the way towards the growth objec­tive of this year of 171,600. Every indi­ca­tion is the Afghan army will make that goal and then some.”

Pat­ton said part of that spike can be attrib­uted to the nation­al mil­i­tary academy’s grad­u­at­ing class. More than 700 new offi­cers and more than 200 non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers joined the Afghan army in March. The Afghan army also has kept on track with reten­tion goals, he added, main­tain­ing a 69 per­cent reten­tion rate for the past year, meet­ing the goal of 60 to 70 per­cent.

Recruit­ing has fared even bet­ter, Pat­ton said. Some 6,800 peo­ple joined the army in March, meet­ing the month­ly recruit­ing lim­it, even though some poten­tial recruits were turned away for med­ical and oth­er prob­lems.

Over the solar year, which runs from March to March, the army recruit­ed 104 per­cent of its goal, as 75,000 Afghans joined the army’s ranks. Recruit­ing efforts met their goal every month of the year, the gen­er­al added.

Lit­er­a­cy train­ing has paid off in recruit­ing, Pat­ton said, not­ing that the com­mand treats lit­er­a­cy both as a train­ing require­ment and as an incen­tive as many Afghans read lit­tle, if at all.

“We’re intro­duc­ing a pre­vo­ca­tion­al school lit­er­a­cy pro­gram, where before sol­diers go to branch schools where they learn to be experts in sup­plies, sig­nal or engi­neers, they attend pre-lit­er­a­cy there to raise [their read­ing lev­els],” he said. “So lit­er­a­cy is pay­ing off as a recruit­ing incen­tive. … The sol­diers I talk with are thrilled about their lit­er­a­cy oppor­tu­ni­ties.”

Pat­ton said the focus of Afghan army train­ing will con­tin­ue to be mod­est growth in quan­ti­ty while increas­ing the qual­i­ty of sol­dier pro­duced through more in-depth train­ing. New voca­tion­al schools will help to expand sol­dier spe­cial­iza­tion train­ing, includ­ing “train-the-instruc­tor” train­ing, he told the blog­gers.

“We are bring­ing Afghan NCOs and offi­cers into a spe­cial­ty pro­gram where we cer­ti­fy them as instruc­tors and then take them through a series of lev­els of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by which they attain essen­tial­ly the dis­tinc­tion as pre­mier train­ers in the army,” Pat­ton said. “Today, we have about 136 who have been through our pre­mier train­er pro­gram, equiv­a­lent to what we would know as our drill sergeant pro­gram in the Unit­ed States Army.”

Pat­ton said the results are vis­i­ble, with Afghan instruc­tors train­ing their coun­try­men to be sol­diers at train­ing bases across Afghanistan.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter