By Senior Airman Kat Lynn Justen
This week, I had the privilege of working alongside special guest Ross Kemp, British documentarian and star of “EastEnders, Ross Kemp on Gangs,” and “Ross Kemp: Extreme World,” as well as his Tiger Aspects production team from Sky Network as they traveled with Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Training Mission Afghanistan commander, to collect footage for a documentary on the status of the War in Afghanistan and coalition efforts to help establish sustainable security forces in the country.
Ross Kemp visited Afghanistan in previous years to chronicle the endeavors of the Royal Anglian Regiment 1st Battalion in “Ross Kemp in Afghanistan” in 2008 and the Royal Regiment of Scotland 5th Battalion in “Ross Kemp: Return to Afghanistan” in 2009, both in the Helmand Province. For his third time shooting in country, his team was intent on documenting the training mission for a tentative television program called “Ross Kemp: Afghanistan 10 years on.”
At Camp Shorabak, the production team and NTM-A leadership met with RMTC and 5 FSD leadership, Afghan National Army troops, and toured the ANA living quarters, supply facilities and maintenance shops.
In a wind-battered tent, steel support struts creaked and the sun-beat canvas cast a yellow hue over Kemp and the Tiger Aspects production team as they conducted an on camera interview with ANA Col. Shah W. Zazai, RMTC commander. Over the course of half an hour, the group discussed a gamut of topics to include the future of Afghanistan and the ANA.
“The first time we started RMTC training,” said Colonel Zazai, “we had problems, but by direct cooperation of American and British mentors we have success at the training centers all over Afghanistan.”
Following the interview, the team took shelter from the dust and heat in an ANA barracks building where they met with dozens of ANA trainees, who spoke of their training, home provinces and working together with members of other tribes toward a common goal of service to their country. One ANA trainee proudly displayed the Afghan flag on the upper right sleeve of his uniform. He explained proudly that the three colors, black, red and green, stood for “God, duty,” and “country.”
On the last leg of the tour, the group visited a supply house stocked full of food and hygene items, and a maintenance shop where Afghans in blue utility uniforms worked diligently on heavy machinery.
“As far as the army and the police forces go,” said General Caldwell, “the one thing we’ve worked hard to do is build systems and institutions. And those are the kinds of things I’d like to see trainers engaged in for several more years because those take time: to really teach people how to run a logistics system, a supply system or maintenance system.”
Royal British Navy engineer Warrant Officer Rattler Morgan, ANA advisor at Camp Shorabak, joined the party throughout the day and provided the following comments about the work Kemp was conducting here.
“Ross Kemp started doing a series where he was embedded with the British Army. For the first time, the Afghan war was portrayed to the British public – it really brought home all the truth about what we were doing here and subsequently promoted support from the public for the forces.” He continued, “This is his third series – you’ll see a massive difference from this one and the last one.”
That difference comes from extensive improvements by the ANA, Afghan National Police and their ever evolving support structure.
“This place … when I first came here, the field hospital was just a tent,” said Kemp. “A few miles out we had a mine strike and a guy lost his life and another guy lost his legs. That was my first time here, and the night before a grenadier guardsman grabbed me and said, ‘you haven’t got a clue what you are doing.’”
“Two years ago, I’d say there is absolutely no way they’d be able to do it,” said General Caldwell, “but yet two years later, having watched them on the ground, I do see the growing ability of their forces to take this on. We will have some setbacks along the way, but I’m absolutely convinced that if the international support remains engaged and the Afghan leadership continues to support it as it does, that they can in fact set themselves up for success.”
At the end of the day, when it seemed as though the wind-storms had abided, the team loaded up for the plane ride back to Kabul.
“They can do this,” said Kemp in a moment of perceived optimism. “They have to be given lessons and know how to do it.”
“Ross Kemp: Afghanistan 10 years on” is slated to air later this year on Sky Network.
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