Advisor Training Cell continues to train the trainer

13 Dec 2010 | Cpl. Monty Burton

Tucked away in a gated compound on Camp Del Mar, the Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force’s Advisor Training Cell work hard to prepare Marines to train and mentor Afghan national security forces.

The ATC’s mission is to form, equip, train, deploy and redeploy advisor teams to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The ATC trains various types of units with different missions including female engagement teams, police mentor teams, corps advisor teams and embedded training teams.

Since July, ATC has deployed 16 teams totaling 210 Marines, sailors and interpreters. The cell focuses on language and culture training, combat marksmanship, combat lifesaving, communications and humvee training in addition to preparing the teams for partnering and mentoring missions in Afghanistan.

“We train the trainers,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Felton Turnage, ATC operations chief. “We take Marines from all different units and [military occupational specialties], and teach them how to be advisors to the Afghan security forces.”

Each team receives different training depending on its specific mission and the current situation on the battlefield.

“This is not a cookie-cutter school,” Felton said. “We base all of our training around what the specific mission dictates and the information we gather from the teams that are forward. Some teams need to focus on shooting while others need experience driving; we tailor the training for their needs.”

Capt. David Keltner, ATC operations officer and trainer, said the teams receive a 10-week, theater-specific pre-deployment package in addition to an advisor-specific training block, geared toward preparing the Marines for their partnering and mentoring missions.

One student, Maj. Phillip Bragg, 215th Corps Advisory Team deputy team chief, said the information taught by the unit is valuable.

“It’s like a crawl, walk then run approach. Early on they focus on the basic types of skills needed to perform the mission successfully,” Bragg said. “With any group it is important to go back to the basics. It is important to refresh and rehearse a lot of the information that could have been forgotten over the years.”

His unit’s mission will be to teach the Afghan National Army how to successfully set up and manage a headquarters, and provide a liaison between the ANA and the Camp Pendleton–based 1st Marine Division.

Felton said the details of the training are always evolving in response to changing operational environments and lessons learned from the front lines.

“If somebody comes through a course today, then a year later does the same course, some of the information would not be the same,” Felton said.

The ATC continues to provide quality training to I MEF Marines to develop skills needed train and mentor the Afghan national security forces.

“As advisors, our Marines have a major responsibility to not only sustain themselves, but also the Afghans they are partnering with,” Felton said. “We take all the training serious because we are setting the country of Afghanistan up for success.”