Story and photo by Cpl. Adam Leyendecker
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Earlier this year when Afghan National Army Sgt. Sarajadin was a student at the Joint Non-comissioned Officer Course at the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, here, he studied not for himself, but for his fellow soldiers.
Sarajadin aspired to be an instructor like the Marines who taught his course. That day soon came. Following his JNCO course’s graduation in April, his Marine instructors determined that the performance and leadership that Sarajadin displayed qualified him to serve alongside them, and to help teach future classes of Afghan National Security Forces.
“The idea is to pick the student who best understands the concepts of the course and has shown a willingness to take charge,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob M. Hayes, staff non-commissioned officer in charge for the JNCO course at JSAS, and a native of Westchester, Pa.
Before Sarajadin set foot in JSAS, he already had combat experience. He had faced numerous improvised explosive devices during operations.
Now, during the current JNCO course here, Sarajadin uses that experience to teach Afghan soldiers how to patrol and use battlefield tactics to fight insurgents. His countrymen learn how to clear buildings and how to form battle formations in urban and rural areas.
Using his personal experience with IEDs, Sarajadin recently taught his students how to locate IED’s and how to properly set up a 360-degree perimeter around the hazard area and wait for a disposal team to arrive and destroy the device.
Students are better able to learn and grasp these and other concepts taught by Sarajadin because of his ability to relate to their situations, said Hayes.
“I am proud of my Afghan instructor,” said ANA Sgt. Parwaz Barkzai, a student attending the JNCO course. “He’s been through everything we have been through, and now he is taking the lead to teach us so we can be better.”
Sarajadin and his Marine counterparts hope to find more prospective Afghan students who can make a similar transition from student to instructor.
“My responsibility is to take care of the students so that some day they can do what I’m doing,” said Sarajadin. “I want to develop more Afghan instructors so we can stand on our own feet. The greatest things I learn from Marines are that they are smart. I want to make sure that the students leaving JSAS are also smart.”
Sarajadin will see his current students graduate from the JNCO course on July 16, and said the class features a couple of students who could become instructors like himself.
Addtional photos can be viewed here.