British forces launch Afghan Army’s first Infantry Branch School

British forces have cre­at­ed a new Infantry Branch School in the moun­tain­ous out­skirts of Kab­ul in part­ner­ship with the Afghan Nation­al Army (ANA).

An Afghan infantry instructor being trained in the use of a heavy machine gun by a British advisor
An Afghan infantry instruc­tor being trained in the use of a heavy machine gun by a British advi­sor
Source: Cor­po­ral Bar­ry Lloyd RLC, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The pur­pose of the new school is for British troops to teach ANA sol­diers infantry tac­tics and sup­port weapons use above and beyond their basic training. 

Based on sim­i­lar train­ing facil­i­ties in the UK, such as the Infantry Bat­tle School in Bre­con, Wales, and the Sup­port Weapons School in Warmin­ster, Wilt­shire, the new infantry school is part of a wider ini­tia­tive by ISAF to set up spe­cial­ist train­ing facil­i­ties for dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the Afghan Army, in the same way that coali­tion forces operate. 

This includes train­ing estab­lish­ments for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, logis­tics, armour and engineering. 

The key objec­tive is to devel­op Afghan sol­diers’ knowl­edge to cov­er mil­i­tary tac­tics and the use of their weapons in sup­port of their oth­er mil­i­tary units. Ulti­mate­ly this cre­ates a more round­ed and tac­ti­cal­ly-capa­ble Afghan force. 

Com­mand­ing Offi­cer of the Infantry Advi­so­ry Group, Lieu­tenant Colonel Jere­my Pughe-Mor­gan, said: 

“What the infantry school is going to do is focus on devel­op­ing junior lead­er­ship and tac­ti­cal skills for pla­toon com­man­ders, pla­toon sergeants and squad lead­ers from the ANA

“We run exact­ly the same cours­es as they do in the UK, the ANA are the instruc­tors, we are mere­ly here to make sure they fol­low the pro­gramme of instruc­tion and make the best of what they can do with the resources that they have.” 

Seen as experts in infantry train­ing and doc­trine, UK offi­cers and senior non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers from the Infantry Advi­so­ry Group will take near­ly 20,000 stu­dents a year through qual­i­fi­ca­tion cours­es reflect­ing their roles. 

The school is bro­ken down into three wings: an offi­cer wing which con­ducts pla­toon com­man­ders’ train­ing, a non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers wing which trains pla­toon sergeants and junior com­man­ders, and a sol­diers wing which pro­vides train­ing in recon­nais­sance and sup­port weapons, such as mor­tars, the heavy machine gun, the rock­et-pro­pelled grenade and the SPG‑9 anti-tank gun. 

Lt Col Pughe-Mor­gan added: 

“The major­i­ty of our sol­diers come from the Offi­cer Can­di­date School, which is the Afghan equiv­a­lent of Sand­hurst [the Roy­al Mil­i­tary Acad­e­my Sand­hurst which trains British Army offi­cers], or they come straight from basic war­rior train­ing to do the advance heavy weapons training. 

“For the squad lead­ers and pla­toon sergeants that are com­ing back from the field, we’re see­ing an increas­ing­ly tougher, more resilient NCO [non-com­mis­sioned offi­cer] com­ing back and ben­e­fit­ing from the cours­es that we run.” 

The cours­es and the train­ing facil­i­ties have been designed by the British instruc­tors to reflect train­ing stan­dards in the UK. In this instance, the British advi­sors, through the process of ‘train-the train­er’, are instruct­ing and coach­ing the ANA to deliv­er the lessons and even­tu­al­ly to run the school them­selves. It takes approx­i­mate­ly three to six weeks to train an Afghan instruc­tor to deliv­er a train­ing package. 

How­ev­er, this approach has not been with­out chal­lenges and there has been a need by the British troops to come up with new ways of teaching. 

Due to the low lev­els of lit­er­a­cy with­in cer­tain groups of stu­dents, the British sol­diers have for exam­ple been using visu­al aids such as mod­els to explain height and key fea­tures on the ground dur­ing nav­i­ga­tion lessons. This paints a pic­ture that the Afghan sol­diers and instruc­tors can eas­i­ly understand. 

Major Till Tim­mer­mann, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing Heavy Weapons Com­pa­ny, said: 

“First of all we iden­ti­fied the train­ing objec­tives, what we want­ed to achieve, then we devel­oped train­ing pro­grammes and les­son plans in Eng­lish and Dari.” 

Stu­dents go through class­room-based and prac­ti­cal out­door lessons in weapon han­dling and fir­ing, map read­ing, first aid, radio com­mu­ni­ca­tions and recon­nais­sance before under­tak­ing sim­u­lat­ed train­ing exer­cis­es and then assessed live fir­ing exer­cis­es on the ranges at the cul­mi­na­tion of their training. 

Major Tim­mer­mann added: 

“When the Infantry Advi­so­ry Group took over this task, one of the things we noticed was that stu­dents were only being taught on that weapon and how to fire it. 

“We’ve tak­en the next step by involv­ing tac­tics and manoeu­vre into it; for exam­ple the machine gun­ners will learn not only how to secure and sight a gun line, but they will learn about the prac­ti­cal employ­ment of using guns in sup­port of oth­er operations. 

“I think one of the key suc­cess­es of the Infantry Branch School is that we’re tak­ing the sol­diers, giv­ing them the tech­ni­cal know-how, and they will bring that to the field Army. That means that for all the equip­ment that the Afghan Nation­al Army has, they will now have trained and qual­i­fied per­son­nel oper­at­ing it, and so will be able to max­imise their capa­bil­i­ties in the field.” 

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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