Photo Information

First Lt. Alexander Livingston, the officer in charge of the NCO course, at the Joint Security Academy Southwest, distributes maps to Afghan National Army soldiers from the 215th Corps who are attending the NCO course, Aug. 11. Class members were tested using these individuals maps to confirm they retained the knowledge.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Map reading skills advance Afghan NCOs knowledge

11 Aug 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci

Afghan National Army soldiers from the 215th Corps learned the basics of map reading at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Aug. 11.

The map reading class is a portion of the non-commissioned officers course at the Joint Security Academy Southwest. The entire course is dedicated to producing more efficient leaders for the Afghan National Army. Map reading skills, just one portion of the training, are vital to many assets of security operations conducted in Afghanistan.

Medical evacuations, calling for support and reporting positions for accountability are some of the critical situations requiring map-reading abilities. The ability to properly read a map is a skill in which Afghan soldiers will draw upon everyday.

“When our commander tells us to go somewhere we should know exactly where he expects us to be,” said Sgt. Habibullah, an ANA soldier with the 215th Corps.

The course is not without its own unique challenges. Marine instructors must work through language barriers. Additionally, this course began at the start of Ramadan. That meant both students and instructors worked altered schedules to accommodate the Afghan observance of Muslim traditions.

Soldiers in these courses have been to their duty stations and participated in operations requiring the skills that are being taught. That meant many had rudimentary skills. They practice the skills to increase their knowledge base, improving their ability to function in their duties.

“They have been in combat and done these things already,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Livingston, the officer-in-charge of the NCO course, at JSAS. “The majority of them know what’s being taught they just need to become more efficient at it.”

Becoming more efficient at reading maps will also assist the soldiers in progressing their units. Having formal training gives the NCOs a tool to legitimize their expertise while teaching their junior soldiers. It allows Afghan soldiers to be leaders among their own troops, adding to the professionalism of their forces.

“A person should know everything about the topic if he wants to teach or be an instructor,” Habibullah said.

Knowledge is also utilized as a recruiting tool, as ‘word of mouth’ is one of the main sources of disseminating information in rural Helmand province. Giving soldiers the ability to raise their status through advanced courses challenges them to better themselves.

Watching others gain notoriety and authority will encourage the younger, inexperienced soldiers to achieve what their NCOs have, according to Livingston, 29, from Wichita, Kan. Turning knowledge into power will allow ANSF branches to establish a standard for advancement.

“I know when they go back to their unit they will be looked at by other NCOs as the guy they want to be like,” Livingston added.