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Story and photos by Sgt. Laura Bonano

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Nineteen Afghan soldiers and police graduated from the basic generator operator and maintenance course taught at the Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest, Feb. 20.

The eight-day course teaches the skills necessary to run and maintain generators used to power military and security operations. Marine instructors as well as Afghan instructors lead the class in a joint effort.

Lance Cpl. Elbridge Barnard, a native of Philadelphia, Pa., is an instructor at Joint Sustainment Academy Southwest and said even though the class is short, it is jam packed with information. The students are taught how to do preliminary checks on the generators as well as how to fix problems caused from pulled wires or other defects in the systems.

Part of Barnard’s job is to purposely disable the generator and question the students on how to fix it.

“Most of these guys are mechanically inclined and they have a desire to learn,” said Barnard. “I like sharing the knowledge that I have and I’m proud of the students.”

Mohammad Ismail, with the 444 Special Forces unit of the Afghan National Army, was the first student to receive his graduation certificate. He was also the class honor graduate.

A native of Kabul, Afghanistan, Ismail said his father and brother were mechanics and he credits that to his success in the course. He said if the students study hard and learn, they can contribute their newfound abilities to Afghanistan as a country.

“The class is very important to the students and especially to the ANA,” said Ismail. “It will be extremely important not only for now, but for the future as well.”

Ismail plans to return home to teach his fellow Afghans the skills he has learned. He said the responsibility on his shoulders is large but in order for Afghans to play a bigger role in the future of Afghanistan, he must bear the load.

Ismail will return to Kabul with a graduation gift containing an extensive set of mechanic’s tools. The gift was given to Ismail during the ceremony. It will help him accomplish the goal of passing on his experiences from the class with other Afghans when he returns home.

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