By Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen, USAF
NTM-A Public Affairs
NATIONAL POLICE TRAINING CENTER – WARDAK — I couldn’t breathe … the thin mountain air and weight of the bullet proof plate carrier strapped to my chest were introducing me to an unearthly world of mortality. Running eight miles a day or cycling 30 in D.C. did diddly to prepare me for my first trek 7,000 feet in the Afghan mountains; it was like running on Mars. Sucking for air, legs straining from lack of oxygen, I pressed on from the Blackhawk helicopter behind me as the churning blades pulled it once again skyward. My quarry was making its way up the road of the compound a few hundred meters ahead. A final drive of exertion and the group was bested as I circled round to the front of the pack in time get off about a dozen shots.
I tipped the Nikon D3s digital camera forward to view the images on the LCD screen, despite the glaring sun, I could see the jaunt payed off – the image was captured.
Let me be clear, this moment was not about the physics of lung capacity at high altitudes or the adventures of an Air Force photographer, it was about capturing a piece of history as international and NATO Training Mission Afghanistan leadership converged together to witness the growing success Afghan trainers are making toward bolstering the ranks of their security forces.
A cadre of visitors, to include Afghan Minister of Interior Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, French Ambassador Bernard Bajolet, Czech Deputy Ambassador Stepanka Litecka, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, NATO Training Mission Afghanistan commander, and an entourage of Romanian, French, Portuguese, Czech Republic, American and Afghan personnel and security officers visited the premier police training facility in Afghanistan, National Police Training Center Wardak, to show strong support toward international mentors and Afghan trainers and students, July 10.
The group made their way to a briefing room where they were informed by French Gengarmerie Col. Jean Gouvart, international trainers commander, about current construction projects and the status of ANP training at Wardak.
The $106 million dollar facility is nearly three-fourths of the way toward a completed target of eight classrooms, 23 guard towers, 23 barracks, three headquarters buildings, fitness center, training compound, medical center and fire department. Soon, the facilities would be filled with their goal of 3,000 ANP students, making NPTC-Wardak the premiere police training center in Afghanistan.
The distinguished visitors were informed the First Officer Cadet School at Wardak started July 9 with 300 students in class and a second NCO to OSC course with 200 Afghans is slated to begin this week. So far, the school has graduated 110 Afghans and is currently training 868.
“A new generation of Afghan National Security Forces is critical to our mission and will underpin the professional force that will transition into the lead by the end of 2014,” said General Caldwell.
International instructors are advising and mentoring Afghan trainers, who are solely responsible for the direct training of recruits at Wardak. This Afghan training takeover is well ahead of General Caldwell’s goals of having all trainers Afghan by 2012.
“The development of quality Afghan trainers and instructors, who are capable of leading and training their force and eventually assuming responsibility for the training base, are the essential building blocks for institutional self-reliance and eventual transition,” said General Caldwell.
At the end of the day, in a motivational speech to leadership, Minister Mohammad introduced the new Afghan Police
training commander. He charged him with taking care of his people by providing them with quality food, ensuring they are paid properly and maintaining the facilities they have been given. “Give your soldiers gold and they will make sacrifices for you,” he said.
Wardak leadership succinctly illustrated the Afghan trainer’s capabilities to continue to successfully develop quality police forces to protect and uphold the law for Afghanistan and its citizens.
At the close of the tour, warm farewells were exchanged between distinguished visitors and Wardak personnel. After which, the group and I loaded up for our flight back to the capital city of Kabul. As I looked out the window to the compound below, the skeletal structures of Afghanistan’s future force facilities could be seen nestled next to their completed counterparts. I reflected on how remarkable it was to bear witness to history in the making; the growth of a nation’s force that would protect it’s people, and the hand that my own people and coalition forces have had in the effort to bring peace to this land.
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