JEFFERSON CITY- After spending a year trading cultures, customs and military know-how with soldiers of the Afghan National Army, 17 Missouri Guardsmen returned to their loved ones.
During their deployment the Guardsmen trained Afghan soldiers in leadership, soldiering skills and the use of military hardware. These Afghan soldiers now serve as a national defense force against foreign invaders and terrorist threats.
For senior advisor Lt. Col. Mark Worley, of Columbia, helping the Afghan Army grow is an accomplishment his Soldiers can be proud of.
“We stood up a brigade over there,” Worley said. “It started with 300 soldiers and when we left there were over 2,000.”
Maj. Juan Mata, a Missouri Guardsman from Stafford, Va. said that the new brigade has already begun hunting terrorists who have been attacking civilians and troops between Kabul and the Pakistan border.
“We want to show the Afghan people that their army is there to help them and to protect them from the violence in the area,” Mata said.
The newly formed military is the first national army in the region since the Taliban seized control in 1996.
For the trainers, understanding the Afghan people and culture took time and patience but the mission was a success, said 1st Lt. Roy Love, of Kirksville.
“What was natural for them seemed so foreign to me,” Love said. “At first I had to remember they were thinking the same thing about me and how I acted.”
Cultural difference weren’t the only hurdle the team had to overcome. Love said he had to learn how to use surplus Soviet weapons before he could safely train the Afghan Army.
“I had to teach myself how to use the Delta 30 cannon before I could show the Afghan soldiers all of the equipment’s capabilities,” Love said. “They knew the basics of how to fire at what they could see, but I helped teach them to fire at the threat in hiding.”
Love said that though the team’s effort had made great strides toward securing that part of the world, their efforts were still a work in progress. He said he hopes to volunteer to return to the region one day and continue his training with the Afghan Army.
At the unit’s welcome home ceremony, Maj. Gen. King E. Sidwell, the adjutant general of the Missouri National Guard, praised the team’s ability to slip seamlessly from their civilian careers to their roles as teachers.
“No one in this room went to school to become a military trainer” said Sidwell “They are taking the knowledge they received from training 39 days of a year with their units and forging the army of another nation.”