Strathconas in Pol-e-Charkhi
The Consolidated Fielding Centre (CFC), an Afghan National Army (ANA) institution, located in Pol-e-Charkhi, just East of Kabul, may be one of the most important Afghan units where Canadians are currently serving as part of the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan. The mission of the CFC is to build new ANA units from scratch, manning and equipping them to 85% of their Table of Organization and Equipment, training them to 50% of their Battle Task Standards, validating their ability to perform in the field, and then deploying them to their Corps location to begin operations. ANA at the CFC are mentored at several levels by Coalition Forces (CF) advisors from a host of nations including the United States, Canada, Italy, Romania, Jordan, Croatia and Britain, among others. Canada retains the lead at the CFC and our mission here is to mentor and advise the ANA staff and training cadre in the fulfillment of their mission. To this end, we are also working towards transitioning Afghan forces at the CFC to autonomy by end-December 2013.
This mission is not without its challenges, but the Strathconas working here are making a real and tangible contribution to the development of Afghan security capacities of the future. For example, once a unit is manned, equipped and trained, Capt Marshall Douglas, the unit S35, coordinates all the details surrounding the deployment of that unit, typically of Battalion strength, from Kabul to its parent Corps location. This work, which involves coordination with several levels of ANA and Coalition headquarters and coordination centres, is complex enough for Capt Douglas to remind us on a regular basis that he is still, in fact, kind of a big deal around here. A typical day for WO Doug Paquette, our Ops WO at the CFC, involves everything from coordinating the camp to camp movement of CF personnel to securing life support for visiting OMLTs. Cpl Erik Goodall, spends every day of his work week doing the critical task of mentoring ANA soldiers on soldier skills as they go through the paces of their nine week unit training plan. Sgt Jesse Scheller, meanwhile, could be likened to a QM for the ANA. From trucks to machine guns, to Kevlar to radios (all of this equipment being new out of the box), Sgt Scheller puts millions of dollars of new equipment in the hands of ANA soldiers EVERY WEEK! His plan to set aside a SEACAN of .50 cals and Mark 19s for Recce Sqn is a work in progress.
While this evolution of Canada's contribution to the NATO mission in Afghanistan is a very different experience from the types of operations Strathconas have become accustomed to in Kandahar over the past several years, it is still a critical mission that will set the conditions for the transition to autonomy of the Afghan government and its security forces. The impact of our work at this institution is real. By the time we redeploy to Canada in 2012, the equivalent of three Brigades of combat units will be equipped, manned, trained and deployed from the CFC and head straight to the fight. This scale of this task is enormous and we are all proud to be a part of it.