The New Leadership Climate in Afghanistan
Over the past three days, we have been paid a visit by one of the most extraordinary soldiers I have ever met, Command Sergeant Major Roshan Safi. Soon to graduate from the U.S. Army Sergeant Major Academy in Fort Bliss, Texas, he is the first enlisted soldier to train in the United States from Afghanistan. A more professional example of the future of the Afghan National Army (ANA) is hard to imagine. A man with a passion for training the best soldiers his nation can have, he is as articulate as he is experienced in the modern world.
Although he enlisted in the Afghan Army in 2003 as a supply sergeant, his quest for knowledge and his professional excellence quickly drew the attention of the emerging leadership of the newly formed ANA. He quickly learned new skills and and rapidly rose throuugh the ranks. In an army thirsty for leadership, his focus on building a professional soldier class, his heartfelt enthusiasm for training and his hardened skill on the battlefield made him the natural choice to mentor the soldiers of Afghanistan.
Immediately before attending the Sergeant Major Academy, he attended the Defense Language Institute to study English as a second language. He graduated at the top of his class. When asked about his heritage, something that is a natural subject of Afghans proud of their ethnic history, Roshan does not hesitate. "I am Afghan. First and foremost, I am Afghan. It does not matter how we identified ourselves in the past. Sure, when people want to know, yes, I am Pashtun, but what matters most to me is that we stat to recognize that we are not so many different tribes. That is a way we will stay apart. We are one people, the people of Afghanistan."
He discussed passionately his view of the role of the United States intervention in Afghanistan. "My country was a very sick patient in 2001. We had suffered from the disease of War for three decades and America was our doctor. You gave us the medicine we needed and stayed by our bedside to help us get better. All we want is for your to keep this prescription long enough for us to walk on our own feet again as healthy as we possibly can be," he said.
"Your reward will be the loyalty of a Nation that wishes to serve alongside you, no matter where" he offered. "Shoulder to shoulder, we will meet any enemy together. We are one team, one fight!"
He continued "You have to understand, I am the fruit. I am the fruit that comes from a seed that the Americans and Coalition partners planted four years ago and watered and nurtured and helped to grow strong. Now, I must be a seed for the rest of my country, planting ideas and growing a professional Army."
His passionate enthusiasm is infectious. In the words of our own Command Sergeant Major, CSM Brunk Conley, "I have a new best friend."
Pondering for several weeks how our combined joint task force should respond to our motto "JUNGLEERS!" our CSM had a proposal within an hour of meeting with CSM Roshan. Roshan's words echoed in Conley's head and he came to our staff meeting with an idea that was readily welcomed by the staff.
When rendering a salute to a superior officer, the warriors of this task force proclaim "JUNGLEERS!" In response to that challenge we now respond with Roshan's own words in the languages of Afghanistan. Depending on whether we are in the Dari-speaking, Pashtun or Uzbek areas of the country we will replay with;
"Yak Team, Yak Jang" - Dari
"Yo Team, Yo Jang" - Pashto
"Beer Team, Beer Botta" - Uzbek
"ONE TEAM, ONE FIGHT!"