CAMP Commando, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) Commandos, with General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) policemen spent two weeks in August 2018 learning Close Air Attack techniques as part of the 6-week ANASOC Land Navigation Course at the Afghan National Army Special Operations School of Excellence (SOE), near Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) has embarked on an aggressive program to double the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF). The ASSF is made up of elite special operations forces from the Afghan National Army of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) of the Ministry of Interior (MoI). The ASSF has, over the past several years, conducted 70% of the offensive operations against insurgents across the country. Advised and assisted by NATO and US special operations forces and ‘enabled’ with air support, MEDEVAC, fires, ISR, and SOF advisors at the tactical level the ASSF has been the most combat effective ground units of the ANDSF. They are supported by the Special Mission Wing (SMW) of the Afghan Air Force.
In addition to doubling the size of the Afghan Special Security Forces the MoD and MoI have, assisted by Resolute Support, increased the number of specialty courses that the elite SOF combatants attend. For instance, the Afghan Commandos undergo a 14-week long Afghan Commando qualification course. Upon completion, many of the graduates are sent to one of the ten Special Operations Kandaks (SOK). However, some are sent to advanced specialty training – attending courses in weapons repair, Afghan Tactical Air Coordinator (ATAC), medical, and mortar training.
The Land Navigation course begins with two weeks of map reading and land navigation training, followed by a week of honing radio and GPS skills. The land navigation training finishes off with two weeks of Close Air Attack training.
“These are critical skills that can be immediately applied on the battlefield by Afghanistan’s elite forces like the General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) and ANASOC Commandos,” said Bill, a former U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control-Party (TAC-P) specialist and current ANASOC School of Excellence mentor.
During the Close Air Attack training the students learn plotting techniques using a Call For Fires simulator. There are three rotary wing aircraft used by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) for Close Air Attack. These are the Mi-35 HIND D, Mi-17 Transport, and the MD-530D Cayuse Warrior. The Mi-35 and MD-530 are used for armed reconnaissance, escort, and CAA. Some of the Afghan Mi-17s have been outfitted with guns and rockets; but it is primarily a transport helicopter. There are only a few Mi-35s that fly (if any at all). The Mi-17s are being phased out (eventually) and replaced by the U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawk. The MD-530F is a smaller U.S.-made observation helicopter that is armed as well.
“These procedural and communications skills are critical when dealing with actual aircraft during missions requiring supporting aerial fires to Special Operations Forces,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shafiulla, an ANASOC School of Excellence land navigation instructor.
The Call For Fires phase and simulator practice is important in order to provide supporting aerial fires for on-ground Special Operations Forces. The week-long phase is followed by the air space procedures where Commandos learn to deconflict aerial platform movement, casualty evacuation request, and supply drop plotting. Courses like the ANASOC Land Navigation Course will continue to improve the effectiveness of the Afghan Special Security Forces in the fight against the insurgents.
Photos: Photos are of Afghan Commandos plotting coordinates during Close Air Attack (CCA) training as part of the ANASOC Land Navigation Course. All photos by U.S. Army Master Sergeant Felix A. Figueroa, NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan (NSOCC-A) Public Affairs, August 1, 2018.