Edmonton Journal posts biweekly columns written by Canadian troops training Afghan Army

Lessons in Afghanistan: Sergeant’s tour winds down

From left, Capt. Mohammad Asif Azemi and 1st Lt. Nanagailey Ander of Afghan National Army with Sgt. Bryan Crowston, of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at the Regional Military Training Centre - North in Mazar-e-Sharif

By Sgt. Bryan Crowston, Edmonton Journal January 21, 2012 10:00 PM — Sgt. Crowston is shown here with Capt. Mohammad Asif Azemi and 1st Lt. Nanagailey Ander of Afghan National Army

As my tour in Afghanistan slowly comes to a close, I have begun to reflect on what I have done and learned here.

Along with other Canadian Forces advisers, I work with Afghan National Army (ANA) staff who train ANA junior leaders. We help the staff plan training and identify ways to improve how courses are conducted. I have watched ANA staff edge toward becoming totally selfreliant. There have been some setbacks and tough times, but the staff we work with are well on their way to being able to conduct professional and effective training for ANA non-commissioned officers (NCOs) without oversight from coalition advisers.

I look back at my first days at Regional Training Centre – North and the slow, tentative steps taken to earn the trust and respect of the Afghans who I work with every day. Our first few conversations were just like starting a new job back home and meeting co-workers for the first time. I was reserved. I talked about where I came from and my experiences.

I work with an ANA First Sergeant who worked with a Canadian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team in Kandahar province in 2008, and I had experience serving with Afghans during my previous tours. This really helped break the ice for me and my team during our first days.

I have learned that Afghans may not do things exactly like we would at home, but they still get results. They are masters of fixing immediate problems when they appear. The old saying that patience is a virtue is one of the truest things that can be said about working with Afghans. The ANA works at a different speed than we do at home and sometimes results are measured not in hours or days, but in weeks or months. Patience and persistence are keys to success. I have learned that mentoring someone can be rewarding and frustrating at the same time. Some suggestions I made about how to improve the courses were implemented with little prompting, and some suggestions were brushed aside.

One of the bright spots occurred when we convinced the course commanders to hold a weekly meeting between officers and course staff about things that worked well and things that need to be improved. By doing this, the officers got the ground truth from their staff, who work with ANA trainees every day.

Most of all, I have learned that I want Afghanistan and the ANA to succeed. I want the ANA to be able to bring some kind of peace and stability to their country. I want children here to be able to go to school without fear. I want the people of Afghanistan to be able to live as free as they possibly can.

One month from now will mark 10 years since I first set foot in Afghanistan. A few weeks after that I will complete my fourth tour in Afghanistan. I have spent 807 days in this country. I want Afghans to succeed so that when we look back on our time here, we are able to say that after so much war, we helped create the nation that the Afghan people dream of and deserve.

Sgt. Bryan Crowston, of the Edmonton-based 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, is serving along with 55 other Canadian Forces advisers and support staff at the Afghan National Army’s Regional Military Training Centre – North, located near Mazare-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. About 915

Canadian Forces personnel are serving in Afghanistan as part of the Canadian Forces’ contribution to training Afghanistan’s army, police and air forces.

operation attention

Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan is not over for about 950 men and women serving there in Operation Attention, a mission focused on increasing security, regional diplomacy, humanitarian assistance and the needs of Afghan children.

See original story here.                           __________________________________
Today we [Edmonton Journal newspaper] continue a series of biweekly columns from Canadian mentors at the Afghan army’s training facility near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Lt.-Col. Derek Chenette and Cpl. Jennifer Scott of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and Sgt. Bryan Crowston of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry will share their experiences on the new front in Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.
                                               © Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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