“On 12 January, a Transfer of Authority (TOA) ceremony between the 3-3 Kandak (the ANA equivalent of a battalion) and the 23rd Kandak took place in Jalal Abad. The Kandak’s Armor Brigade Commander officiated the ceremony, which included a dinner, several speeches, and a formal transfer of colors, followed by a ceremonial dance. The 3-3 Kandak departed knowing that they had made a significant difference while helping to establish security in the Nangarhar, Laghman, and Kunar Provinces. The 23rd Kandak, a light infantry unit commanded by Colonel Haji Islam Mohdeen, had far more soldiers than the 3-3 Kandak, but were missing some key staff officers and equipment assets that the United States Army Embedded Training Team (ETT) worked to obtain for them. The ETT immediately initiated specialized Area of Responsibility (AOR) orientation training for them, which included specifics on their role and responsibilities in the Afghan Government’s counter-narcotics efforts. Special emphasis was placed on how to account for and properly destroy confiscated illegal drugs.” — Source: 3/3 Command Chronology for the Period 01 January to 30 June 2005
3/3 Gains Another Ally in OEF
By Cpl. Rich Mattingly
Marine Corps News
January 27, 2005
JALALABAD, Afghanista – The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, gained a new partner in Afghanistan as the 23rd Kandak, or battalion, of the Afghan National Army assumed authority in Jalalabad.
The Kandak, who’s soldiers recently graduated from the Kabul Military Training Academy, were welcomed to the fight by 3rd Bn. at a transfer of authority ceremony held last week.
“The Afghan National Army plays a critical role in protecting and promoting the Afghan democracy,” said Lt. Col. Norm Cooling, commanding officer, 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines. “The Marines of America’s Battalion will continue to work closely with Afghan forces to improve their training as well as work side by side with the ANA to provide security for the Afghan people.”
The Kandaks have been supporting the Marine mission in Afghanistan with the help of the Army’s Embedded Training Teams who liaison between the Marines and Afghan forces.
“We’re a 14-man team who coach, mentor and train the leadership of a Kandak,” said Army Maj. Dave Vesper, deputy team chief, 23rd Kandak ETT. “In a garrison environment we direct formal classes, and during missions we act more as combat advisors as well as go-betweens for the ANA and Coalition forces.”
Marines have had many positive experiences working with dedicated Afghan forces. The 3/3 Kandak, which the 23rd replaced, was looked upon highly by the Marines who operated side-by-side with its soldiers.
“The Kandak is an outstanding unit and it has been an honor to work with them,” explained 1st Lt. John-Paul Sienicki, L Platoon commander. “They have been vital in helping us develop a positive relationship with the Afghan people.”
The 3/3 Kandak is a designated armor unit, but were deployed to Jalalabad as an infantry unit for the Presidential election. As they return to Pol-E-Charki, near Kabul, they will undergo armor refresher training then return to being part of the quick reaction force for the nation, ready to be deployed as an armor unit as needed.
Made up of a diverse mix of ethnicities and tribes from around the country, the Kandaks are widely viewed by Afghans as a source of national pride. In this diverse environment where ethnic tensions still divide parts of the country, the Kandaks are a unifying and stabilizing force for the Afghan people, said Vesper.
“The Kandaks are the future of Afghanistan,” he said. “For many people they are the most visible manifestation of the central government. Because of their multi-ethnic composition, they’re seen as fair brokers of the peace.”
Vesper related that when the ANA first began to operate around Afghanistan, they were not trusted by the Afghan Militia Forces who were the remnants of the warlords’ militias who had fought the Taliban regime.
“To the militia guys, the ANA were just another group of guys with AKs,” explained Vesper. “Within two months, the ANA had the AMF turning in their weapons and explosives voluntarily. The ANA has built that trust.”
The ANA also provides an Afghan face to the government and to the new peace that is being built here. For the Marines, working with the Kandak further demonstrates to the people of Afghanistan that their mission is for the greater good of the country.
“People see their own government helping them, not just other nations, and that’s very important to the development of Afghan self-government,” said Vesper.
“The Kandak soldiers clearly want to serve their nation,” added Cooling. “That spirit of service and sacrifice is an indispensable and fundamental basis for any democracy.”
“The ANA soldiers are patriotic,” added Sgt. 1st Class Steve Toth, ETT company trainer. “They appreciate the sacrifice of the Marines and soldiers because it’s something they understand. They desire a peaceful and secure Afghanistan just as we do.”
The transfer of authority ceremony was marked with speeches by Coalition and Afghan leaders and a traditional Afghan dinner. The outgoing Kandak was praised for its hard work and support of the Marines and Soldiers in Jalalabad. After the posting of the Afghan colors, many joined in the Afghan national dance to celebrate the successful transition between units.